After nearly six years of planning, the indoor skydiving facility iFly broke ground on Wilmington's Eastwood Road last month.
The facility – the first of its kind in Southeastern North Carolina – will offer residents and visitors alike the chance to freefall inside a fan-powered wind tunnel. The Wilmington facility's co-founders and owners, Patrick Maguire and his father-in-law George “Jamie” Jamison, say they hope to open the facility by late summer.
The iFly franchise opened its first wind tunnel in Orlando in 1998. The chain has more than 80 locations across the U.S. and around the world. The company’s only other North Carolina facility is located near Charlotte.
Wilmington’s iFly facility
is slated for a nearly two-acre tract of undeveloped land at 1441 Eastwood Road. The project received a needed rezoning from Wilmington leaders in 2022. Since then, Maguire, Jamison and Chief Operating Officer David Soler have worked to secure financing and assemble a team to support its construction and future operations.
All the while, they’ve encountered rising interest rates and increased materials costs, Jamison said, which have made the project more expensive.
“The increase in the cost of construction materials, and just overall inflation in the construction industry was probably the biggest thing,” he said. “That was actually a bigger deal than the interest rates.”
Once complete, the iFly facility will cost nearly $12 million, according to Jamison. The partners closed on the project’s financing at the end of December. It’s being financed through a 504 loan through the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA) with Newtek Bank serving as the lending partner.
The project also gained local support through a crowdfunding push that raised around $370,000. The partners also invested their own money to get it off the ground, Jamison said.
It’s been a long road bringing the project to fruition, Maguire said. He first came up with the idea of bringing indoor skydiving to Wilmington in 2018. As a special operations officer with the U.S. Marine Corps, Maguire has spent thousands of hours skydiving in indoor wind tunnels.
After enlisting the help of his father-in-law, the partners formed a company in 2019. Maguire said he’s proud of the team’s persistence through the years.
“Not a lot of people would continue to grind it out over six years in an economy that was not the best economy,” he said. “I’m so proud of where we’ve come, and we’ve got a long way to go but that’s okay.”
In addition to skydiving, the facility will also offer a 270-degree simulator in partnership with Conflict Kinetics. The company’s simulators have been used for military training to improve reaction time and hand-eye coordination. This is the first time the simulators will be available for use by the public, Maguire said.
Crews from general contractor Monteith Construction are currently working to grade the project site, and over the next month, they’ll begin laying the building’s foundation and creating a water retention pond. “Fingers crossed, we're hoping for an August opening,” Maguire said.
Pre-sales for memberships and other ticket packages are expected to begin in the coming weeks, according to Maguire. They also plan to put out a hiring call for flight instructors and other staff members soon. The facility will employ around 25 people, including 10 flight instructors.
While the project’s groundbreaking is just the “end of the beginning,” Jamison said, it’s gratifying to see their years of work come to fruition.
“When we first embarked on it, we had no idea of the twists and turns that you encounter in a journey like this,” Jamison said. “But it's enormously satisfying to be at the stage now where we're beginning construction.”