The contractor building an indoor sky-diving facility is facing its biggest challenge: Virginia Beach's tenacious high water table.
What happens when you excavate a 26-foot basement two blocks from the ocean?
"It gets wet," said Brian Revere, president of Breeden Construction.
The design plans for iFLY Va Beach called for a deep, underground rectangular space to create the best air flow for a flight experience.
At iFLY, customers won't jump out of a plane and won't need a parachute. Instead, they'll step onto a grate in a glass cylinder where air circulating from below will lift them off their feet.
"You are the pilot," said Robert Pizzini, chief executive officer of iFLY Va Beach. "You fly your body like a pilot would fly an aircraft."
The underground components are nearly complete after four months of work at 25th Street and Pacific Avenue. Contractors installed temporary dams, pumped out the water and, with the earth held back, rolled out a waterproof vinyl liner, then poured concrete over it.
Now, iFLY Va Beach is taking shape above ground with four 8-foot fans and a glass flight chamber in place. A crane set precast pieces for one of two air towers Tuesday morning.
"Every day is a new challenge out here," Revere said as he stepped through a maze of heavy equipment and sand.
Some days include "crane gymnastics," he said, on the 2-acre site that was a municipal parking lot. The city sold the property to The Breeden Co. for $7.65 million. It's shoehorned between Pacific Avenue's retail businesses and rows of houses in the Oceanfront's Old Beach neighborhood.
The multi-use project will include a parking garage with public spaces to open by the end of the year and 147 apartments to be completed by next summer.
Up first is iFLY. The inner workings are visible from the street. The flight chamber - 14 feet across and 52 feet tall - fronts Pacific Avenue. Motors generating 1,400 horsepower will spin the fans on top, recirculating air through the underground space and into the climate-controlled flight chamber.
The facility will open by mid-October.
Prices will begin at $59.95 for beginners and include training, equipment and two flights, each lasting one minute and equivalent to a sky dive from an airplane 2-1/2 miles up, Pizzini said. Group rates and memberships also will be available. It's modeled after other iFly franchises in Dallas and Chicago.
Pizzini, a disabled veteran who is a retired Navy explosive ordnance officer, said the Virginia Beach location is ideal for attracting military contracts and the Mid-Atlantic region's sky-dive community, as well as tourists and locals who want to fly without wings.