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Wallenda's bills paid in Canada 0

DAN DAKIN, QMI Agency
Tightrope walker, Nik Wallenda crosses Niagara Falls on a wire, June 15, 2012. (Geoff Robins/AFP)

Tightrope walker, Nik Wallenda crosses Niagara Falls on a wire, June 15, 2012. (Geoff Robins/AFP)

NIAGARA FALLS, ONT. - 

The Niagara Parks Commission (NPC) says Nik Wallenda is all paid up and has been since before his June 15 high-wire walk across Niagara Falls.

After reports came out late last week that the Florida funambulist still owed the cities of Niagara Falls, N.Y., and Niagara Falls, Ont., $35,000, officials from this side of the border said that's not the case.

"It was all taken care of," NPC chair Janice Thomson said Saturday. "Our agreement called for the money to be paid several days prior to the walk and he met all of his commitments on time. There's no issue at all."

In order to get the permission to walk from Goat Island to Table Rock on a tightrope last month, Wallenda had to agree to cover all of the safety, security and setup costs. That meant forking out a total of $225,000 to U.S. parks officials and more than $115,000 to the NPC.

Both agencies have been paid in full, but last week, Niagara Falls, N.Y., Mayor Paul Dykstra said the Wallenda camp still owes his city $25,000.

He said that's what's left from $42,000 worth of police and fire overtime costs.

But Wallenda said Sunday he never had a contract with the city itself.

"My agreement was with the NPC on the Canadian side and New York State parks," he said. "If I have a bill, I'll pay it. But (with Niagara Falls, N.Y.) there's no contract, no agreement, there's nothing."

Wallenda said he made a $17,000 donation to the city to help offsets their costs and any costs related to the walk were supposed to be built into the amount he paid the parks officials.

"To me it's nothing but a game of politics," Wallenda said. "The U.S. side looks the way it does because of foolishness like this.

"From the beginning, the mayor there was absolutely against this. He said I can't support it and he never has."

In Canada, Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati concurred with Thomson. He said the NPC is covering most of the city's costs with what Wallenda paid them.

"We had hard costs that the city was out of pocket which we've received and then there are some grey-area costs that we don't expect him to pay," Diodati said.

For example, the cost of temporary traffic signs, additional shuttle buses and other transportation logistics were mostly paid through parking fees at lots the city set up on the night of the walk.

Any additional costs were minor and are just part of hosting such a big event, he said.

"Overall, it was a pretty positive event and it didn't cost very much at all," Diodati said.

Wallenda said the negativity coming from the Niagara Falls, N.Y., mayor's office is making it easier to pick where he wants to set up a show next year.

"I don't want to shut any doors, but what happened (last) week definitely encourages me more to head to (Canada)," he said.

Wallenda wants to launch a summer circus show in the area in 2013.

"We're working on renderings and ideas and concepts right now," he said.

It will be set up inside a temporary structure similar to the large tent used by Cirque Niagara a few years ago.

It will likely start out as a six-week run, but if attendance is strong, Wallenda said he'll extend it to two or three months.

The performer is planning to come back to Niagara Falls, Ont., next month to meet with some of the businesses that donated to the event costs.

He said with one week to go before the June 15 walk, he was facing a $350,000 deficit. But in Canada, Diodati appealed to local businesses, which donated around $125,000. The same amount was raised in the U.S. through corporate donations and more than $50,000 was raised through an online fundraising effort.

"On both sides, people stepped up in a big way," Wallenda said, adding that many of the contractors, including Niagara Falls, Ont.-based Modern Crane, lowered their invoice amounts after the walk to help decrease the total setup bill.

"That's what helped me to not be in huge debt right now," Wallenda said.

Wallenda is waiting on one final bill from the engineering company that oversaw the rigging setup, but expects to come out less than $50,000 in debt.

"I think people still have the impression that Nik Wallenda is going to walk away from this thing making millions of dollars, but that's not the case," he said.

There are plans to raise more money by selling off small pieces of the 550-metre, 25,000-pound wire.

"That's something we're working on but it's a challenge because it's so heavy. So we're looking for a company that can do it," Wallenda said.

dan.dakin@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @dandakinreview


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