- BC Games
FlyOver Canada takes off
At the end of a long pier in Vancouver lies a launch pad to the rest of the country.
FlyOver Canada, a virtual visitor attraction located at the top of the Canadian Trail at Canada Place, opened at the beginning of this month. And what a fitting Canada Day experience it was for all who took flight.
The ride is one of only a handful like it in the world. Divided into three parts, the first is Uplift, an inspirational 10-minute pre-show by Montreal’s Moment Factory (Jay-Z, Cirque) focusing on the diverse cultural communities of Canada.
Next comes the humorous pre-flight safety briefing featuring cameos by the two creators.
Finally, you file into the multi-level theatre seating, completely amped, and buckle up.
The excited chatter of everyone around you goes silent, though, as the lights go off and the seats quietly glide forward.
For the next 10 minutes, you experience the exhilarating feeling of soaring from coast to coast, as footage of breathtaking proportions roll out on the surrounding 20-metre spherical screen.
You’ll want to pull up your feet as tree tops swoop below and wind rushes past your face.
You’ll gasp as you drop in on a galloping herd of wild horses and the smell of the Prairies reaches your nose.
You might even shriek with delight, depending on your penchant for outbursts, as you summit a mountain range and then glide into the glittering valley below.
Location subtitles might help riders orient themselves along the journey (and plan their next vacation), but they were likely eschewed to keep the visuals as immersive and distraction-free as possible.
The high-definition footage was shot over four seasons in 2012 by Whistler’s Sherpas Cinema.
The ride, intended for ages four and up, is not jarring or scary in the slightest. Instead riders are left breathless from excitement.
And so was CEO Andrew Strang, who Black Press caught up with on opening day.
Strang, who grew up in West Van, and his business partner, Stephen Geddes, who now lives in North Van, have worked in tourism and were looking for an attraction to bring to Vancouver.
Inspired on a family vacation by Disney’s Soarin’ Over California, Strang had found the idea they were looking for. Later, the Aquilini Investment Group would help bring the $16-million experience to life.
But they still had to find a home for the 30,000-square-foot endeavour. And in Vancouver that can be nigh impossible.
“Luckily, literally within the same week that we decided we wanted to do this, we read that the IMAX theatre was going dark and that Canada Place was looking for a new long-term tenant or partner. And they indicated in their information that they wanted something ‘inspirationally Canadian,’ so it just made perfect sense,” Strang beams.
Almost three years later, he is standing on the concourse, watching jubilant people walk out of the ride and off into the sunshine.
Strang, who has ridden FlyOver at least 25 times now, is bowled over by the reception.
“You put your heart and soul into something like this, and today, to see people go through and have emotional reactions like, ‘Geez, I never thought I’d see the Northern Lights...’ or ‘I’d never been to Niagara Falls before!’ and all these wonderful comments, it just makes it all worthwhile. In fact, I’ve seen a couple of faces going through twice today.”
And it’s catching imaginations elsewhere as well.
“In the last couple of weeks we’ve had interest from essentially all over the world. We’ve got our eyes on a couple of locations in Canada, but we’re now also really expanding our horizons and looking at other places around the world.”
Kirsten Lausen and Oliver Engler will certainly be telling people back home in Germany about it.
“It was fantastic. I don’t know what to say; there was no favourite because it was all so great.”
“I’ve got a favourite part,” interjects Engler. “It was the mountains. Going over the mountains and then into the valley down. It feels like flying.”
Adult admission is $19.95, with senior and youth prices available. FlyOverCanada.com.
Post your best photo of somewhere in the Lower Mainland on The Outlook’s Facebook page for a chance to win a pair of tickets to FlyOver Canada. Deadline is Friday, Aug. 2.