Knievel doing Marietta stunt in July

An up-and-coming company that planned to launch with the help of daredevil Robbie Knievel last fall now plans to hold the stunt event in Marietta this July.

Ohio Outdoor Heaven, a $50 million project planned for development over about 102 acres on Arends Ridge Road in Marietta, is slated to be a premier entertainment and outdoor recreation venue. The company plans to break ground this spring.

The promotional event, delayed from its October 2013 date, will feature Knievel jumping the Ohio River via motorcycle over about a dozen barges.

Knievel will serve as a spokesman to gain publicity for Ohio Outdoor Heaven, which developers hope will make the region a major destination for outdoor sport enthusiasts across the country.

“We’re still in the capital-raising period,” said Ohio Outdoor Heaven CEO Wei Sheng, a Marietta resident who grew up in Williamstown. “We want to break ground in the spring but we have a lot of work to do.”

Sheng said his company has been granted permission by the U.S. Coast Guard to set up the daredevil stunt and has received permission from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to utilize the land on either side for the jump. The company is still waiting on permission from the West Virginia Department of Transportation, which will be a part of closing the Williamstown Bridge on the day of the event.

Sheng said formal permits will come once an exact date has been set.

The decision to plan for the summer, Sheng said, will give the event a chance to gain more publicity and attract a larger crowd.

“We’re in a situation where there are people coming in with the oil and health industries, and we’re right off (Interstate) 77 and on the border of two states, so it’s an ideal situation for us,” he said. “If people come here and they love it, they’ll spread the word.”

The summer event date will clear the way for distractions that could thin a crowd, like school and football season, though it will be wedged in between popular festivals like Riverfront Roar and the Sweet Corn Festival.

Sheng said the summer will also hopefully bring back droves of people returning north who are looking for things to do once the weather gets warm.

Originally the event plan included Knievel doing the jump and Rick Wallenda, grandson of Flying Wallendas patriarch Karl Wallenda, crossing the river on a tightrope. As of right now Wallenda’s participation is not confirmed.

One of the reasons the event was moved back, Sheng said, was because Wallenda did not have the length of wire available to cross the Ohio River’s width.

“That was an issue last year, we didn’t have that confidence, and we realized we just didn’t have enough time to get that straightened out,” he said.

With Knievel’s jump, however, Sheng said it’s just a matter of picking a date and confirming it with the necessary officials, which he said hasn’t been chosen yet for a variety of reasons.

“We want to continue gathering sponsors, because we want this to be a national event and not just a local one,” he said. “And for broadcast purposes, we want a national news station to cover it, so we need to make sure we pick the best date.”

Marietta Law Director Paul Bertram III said that he has not been in contact with Sheng about the event since it was postponed in October.

“It’s not something that can be done overnight,” he said. “You cannot just hold an event and then walk away. It’s a continuous planning process.”

Bertram said to hold the event, Ohio Outdoor Heaven will need an alcohol permit if it chooses to serve it, and permission from city council to close streets or use necessary city parking lots.

It’s that long process, Bertram said, that leads popular festivals like Riverfront Roar to plan for up to a year in advance.

“It’s like your leasing the area for the time period,” he said. “Everything has to be mapped out in advance.”

Bertram said he expects there to be discussion with Sheng and the city about the event soon.

On the West Virginia end, Sheng said he is looking to receive permission to close the Williamstown Bridge for the event for safety purposes.

West Virginia Department of Transportation Communication Director Brent Walker said officials there have not been in touch with Sheng about plans, but said it should not be a problem getting the necessary work done at this time.

“We definitely don’t get these requests often,” he said. “There wouldn’t be a cost to do it, but some applications and forms he would need to fill out.”

WVDOT has worked with the city of Marietta and different entertainment groups before in regards to closing the bridge, as some fireworks shows and summer festivals also require the roadway to be shutdown for safety.

“We try to be amiable with what people need,” Walker said. “We just have to sit and meet and understand what’s needed for this.”

Right now the development for Ohio Outdoor Heaven between Ohio 60 and 821 sits empty except for installed utilities, and Sheng said there are plans to put in a wastewater treatment facility soon.

“Once that’s there, it’s going to open up the whole area,” he said.

Knievel is currently on tour in Las Vegas, where Sheng said he is going to promote the event and venue.

“We have invested a lot of time and effort to do this project,” he said. “It will all come together because we love the area. We just hope now that we can to do what we envisioned.”

That vision of Ohio Outdoor Heaven is one that includes kayaking, rock-climbing, helicopter tours, indoor shooting, ziplining and hiking trails along with a hotel, spa, restaurants and amphitheater for concerts and entertainment.