Knievel’s Ohio River jump pushed back
MARIETTA – It looks like no one will be crossing the Ohio River by any method but boat or bridge this year.
Ohio Outdoor Heaven Inc. CEO Wei Sheng said Wednesday that daredevil motorcyclist Robbie Knievel’s planned jump over the Ohio River from Ohio to West Virginia on Oct. 19 has been postponed.
Organizers are now targeting the summer of 2014 for the event, which was to have also featured Rick Wallenda, grandson of Flying Wallendas patriarch Karl Wallenda, crossing the river on a tightrope and several days of activities, including concerts, leading up to it.
“We are going to postpone the event,” Sheng said. “There are many factors, and I think that the most important (is) that the timing was too tight.”
Sheng, a Marietta resident, announced the event in June as a promotion for Ohio Outdoor Heaven, his planned $50 million world-class recreation and entertainment complex off Interstate 77 between Ohio 60 and 821. Knievel and stunt coordinator Spanky Spangler came to Marietta to scout the location that month, and Wallenda visited in August.
The jump was to be Knievel’s last in the United States, and a reunion of sorts for the Knievel and Wallenda families, who previously performed together in the heyday of Karl Wallenda and Knievel’s father, Evel.
More preparation time is needed to put the event on properly, Sheng said Wednesday.
“As a business person, (I) do not see this right now as something we can put together that would be a win-win for everybody,” he said. “We now realize that something like this takes a lot more than just a motorcycle and a ramp.”
Sheng said organizers haven’t hit any regulatory roadblocks, but are still awaiting approval from the U.S. Coast Guard. He said all the barges needed for the event have not been secured.
“We’re looking at about 12 to 15 barges,” he said.
The delay will give the event a better chance to be broadcast to a national audience, Sheng said.
“We cannot compete with collegiate football as far as having this broadcast live,” he said.
Also, schools are out in the summer, and the weather is more likely to be favorable, Sheng said.
It’s not clear whether Wallenda will be able to participate in the rescheduled event, but Sheng said he has spoken to him about it.
“He didn’t say no, and he did not say yes,” Sheng said.
Marietta Mayor Joe Matthews, who suggested the jump from one state to another to Knievel when the event was first being discussed, said he was disappointed to hear about the postponement, but optimistic it could still come to pass.
“I just hate to see it happen,” Matthews said. “Hopefully, it’ll work out when (Sheng’s) ready to do it.”
Some people expressed doubts about the event following Knievel’s drunken-driving arrest in South Dakota in August. Sheng has previously said it would have no impact on the local event and the incident was unfortunate but blown out of proportion.
Sheng said the delay of the show won’t have any impact on plans for Ohio Outdoor Heaven, with groundbreaking expected to take place well in advance of next summer.
“Actually, it will give me better concentration and focus now on getting Ohio Outdoor Heaven solidified,” he said. “This event can be a highlight of what we’re doing in the months to come.”
Sheng emphasized again that no taxpayer money has been spent or will be spent on the stunt event.