Sky’s the Limit
Almost 20 years ago, Trace Worthington and Fuzz Feddersen were flying high as the top freestyle skiers in their sport. These days, the two friends are still soaring, but now they are business partners in the Park City-based Flying Ace Productions, Inc., which takes doing twists and turns to a whole different level.
Fifteen years ago, when both men were still competing, they saw an opportunity to make their routines into a form of entertainment that went beyond World Cup or Olympic competition. At the time, they were sponsored by Target and would do routines on trampolines to promote just about any product out there. the time they had both retired, the idea had exploded into the Flying Ace Production business. After the completion of the water ramps at the Utah Olympic Park (UOP), they began sending athletes off the jumps choreographed to music. The Flying Ace All Stars had officially begun.
Ten years later, the duo is still putting on one of the most unique water shows in the world, complete with Olympic skiers, snowboarders, some elite free skiers and even a young kid or two. This year, they have already booked about 35 shows for corporate gatherings and plan to open their public Saturday shows at the UOP on June 14.
The pair agree it doesn’t make much difference whether you have seen the show or not. With ever-changing athletes and music and increasingly difficult and unique tricks, no two shows ever turn out the same. Plus, with the addition of free skiers to the show, they say that sometimes the performers will throw tricks that surprise even them.
"When we started, we could do anything they could on the snow," Worthington said. "Now, we get caught off-guard."
Feddersen and Worthington focus most of their energy on the corporate side of the business. They work hand-in-hand with convention bureaus and meeting planners, booking as many shows for conventions and corporate gatherings as possible.
The concept behind their show is more than high-flying antics. They try to set themselves apart by linking the winter sports theme to the unique Olympic atmosphere of the UOP. That’s something that virtually no other entertainment company can offer in the summer, which keeps clientele coming in high numbers.
"Coming up to the Park is great because of the Olympic vibe," Feddersen said.
Both want to get people up to the UOP to enjoy the full Olympic experience and also to take advantage of and showcase some of the best water ramps in the world.
"The more we promote the Park, the more we are on the radar," Feddersen said.
The location of the business works out in their favor. A number of U.S. Ski Team members live in Park City as well as elite free skiers. Snowboarders are a little less plentiful, but Worthington and Feddersen manage to find a handful each summer. All of these athletes need to train and make money in the off-season anyway, so giving them a job where they can accomplish both works out well.
"We have a really great crop to pull from," Worthington said.
Without having to pay extra costs to bring athletes into town, the business is able to offer very economical options. Flying Ace Productions offers three entertainment package levels: bronze, silver and gold, which range from $3,500 to $50,000. The bronze package is the most basic with a show featuring a variety of athletes.
"If you don’t provide something in that range, you’ll lose people that want to come up," Worthington said.
The silver level gets athletes people may have seen on TV or read about, who perform the show and then sign autographs afterwards. The gold level goes all out. Olympic stars go flying off the ramps and then interact with the guests at a catered meal and autograph session.
Worthington said the athletes are eager after shows to shake hands and meet fans. Competing in a sport that isn’t familiar to everyone, they understand that the best way to make the sport more popular is to act as ambassadors, he said.
Each show is put to music selected by Worthington and then handed off to a dee-jay to adjust the tracks to the tricks. The athletes are asked to so some thrilling stuff triple and quad jumps are the biggest crowd-pleasers and the rest just comes together.
But Flying Ace Productions isn’t all about corporate performances. They perform every Saturday at 1 p.m., as they have for years, for the public at the Olympic Park. While they admit that this isn’t their biggest revenue maker, they agree that it is important to give back to the community and stay connected with locals and visitors. They also try to bring attention to local and regional youth development programs in the area. They will usually bring in a kid from a local program who is just learning and allow them to go off the ramp a time or two in the show. This promotes the local program and also lets kids in the audience know that there are camps and classes available.
"It allows us to plug the sport and get kids involved," Worthington said.
The team hasn’t strayed far from its roots. They still do the trampoline shows year-round. Feddersen said they are popular at trade shows, product launches and corporate events held coast to coast. For these, they use elite trampoline athletes, including current and former Olympians, who jump side by side on two trampolines. They have performed at U.S. Ski Team fundraisers and even as the opening act for concerts. Their next trampoline show will be in Central Park in New York City in two weeks.
They have also expanded the business to include special skiing experiences with Olympic celebrities, where clients can head down the slopes with some of the biggest names in the sport. They are also busy looking for a big corporate sponsor that would help him or her to put on a multi-faceted extreme sport show each year. Flying Ace Productions has put on shows in years past that included the water-ramp show, dancers, music and other extreme performers that drew up to 2,200 spectators. Feddersen envisions it as another part of the Park City summer line-up alongside the Jazz Festival and Utah Symphony at Deer Valley.
They appreciate that what they do is special because of its versatility. Much like ice-skating or gymnastics, freestyle crosses the boundaries of sport and entertainment.
"Not may sports can do it," Feddersen said. "It’s a cool combination."
The company has already made appearances on the Today Show and Ellen. They hope that all of their entities, community involvement and media exposure will allow their popularity to expand, helping to promote them and the sport in general.
"These programs get more kids," Worthington said. "There’s a serious fun aspect to the sport. It’s a big jumping party."
For more information on Flying Ace Productions, visit http://www.flyingaceproductions.com.
The Flying Ace All-Stars Saturday Freestyle Shows
Experience high-flying action as Olympians and national team athletes put on a 25 minute freestyle aerial show for spectators every Saturday during the summer. Skiers and snowboarders will soar up to 60 feet in the air and perform acrobatic feats before landing in a 750,000 gallon splash pool. Showtime is at 1 p.m.
Summer 2008 Pricing General Admission Adult: $10 General Admission Senior/Youth: $7
Summer 2008 Flying Ace All-Stars Freestyle Show Schedule June 14, 21, 28 July 5, 12, 19, 26 August 2, 9, 16, 23, 30
Reservations are not required for The Flying Ace All-Stars Saturday Freestyle Shows. Tickets are sold day of show only.
Information from http://www.olyparks.com.
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