TWIN FALLS • A few months ago, “building” was the central theme to “Big Ed” Beckley’s plan to jump the Snake River Canyon on a motorcycle.
Beckley needed to build his body, his motorcycle, media interest, finance and the trust of Twin Falls city officials. The city needed to build its permitting process and public trust that the Texas daredevil’s stunt wouldn’t destroy its reputation.
Now, the word dominating discussions is “control.”
Can Beckley’s camp control the massive crowd his stunt will bring to the area? Can he control the influx of crime that could come with that crowd?
Each piece in interwoven. Controlling even minor details, such as ticket price, affects other larger aspects, such where attendees will go.
City Manager Travis Rothweiler said safety is paramount to the city, and the key to that is managing the crowd size. A week ago, the number of attendees was estimated at 70,000. During a meeting Monday, Beckley said he’s anticipating only 40,000.
Rothweiler said that difference could spell trouble for the city. If Beckley’s camp only sells 40,000 tickets to watch on the north side of the canyon and an additional 30,000 come to town, they will be forced to the Twin Falls side. Beckley is in talks with Jerome County commissioners about the size and scope of his north side event.
More people in Twin Falls means more headaches, he said, from traffic control to the danger of intoxicated viewers near the canyon rim. And with the city asking Beckley to pay for the increased cost of prosecuting criminal activity he brings to town, Beckley’s bottom dollar is at stake.
“You’ll make money on that side,” Rothweiler said. “The more people you get to that side, the less costly this side will be potentially. It’s a revenue versus expenditure. We’re the expenditure side of your equation when it comes to crowd control.”
Beckley and his attorney Jon Simmons agreed. Other members of Beckley’s team have been crafting a safety and transportation plan to address crowd control with the help of local law enforcement.
“I feel safe with what we are doing on the other side, I feel very safe with what we are doing on this side, I feel safe with me doing what I’m going to do, but what I can’t help is Joe Glick who is drunk, walks down … and topples off the side (of the canyon),” Beckley said.
City Attorney Fritz Wonderlich said the city will be meeting Friday with officials from the court system. He and Rothweiler urged Beckley to reach out to worried prosecutors, too.
“They are very concerned,” Wonderlich said. “Again, this is the original Evel Knievel jump — there was a lot of crime and if we get an undesirable element here that causes a lot of problems, how are we going to deal with that?”
Twin Falls Mayor Don Hall said he was concerned about the event becoming a biker rally and drawing the interest of those from the Sturgis motorcycle rally in early August. He said the city needs to prepare for the worst.
“I do not see this turning into a biker rally,” Beckley said. “I mean there is no racing going on.”
Hall disagreed — “If they want to come, they’ll come.”
Beckley said if the city is worried, they could control liquor sales and what other events they permit in the area. Sideshow events take away from his event anyways, he said. Simmons said he was worried about those other events hurting Beckley’s reputation and pocketbook.
“We are concerned we are going to foot the bill for things other people are planning and over which we have no control,” Simmons said.
Rothweiler said city police have received a number of special event permit applications, but are taking a hard look at what officers can handle. He said the city likely won’t approve any of the applications until they have a good handle on safely controlling Beckley’s jump.
“If (police chief) Brian Pike starts getting really concerned that we are over our eyeballs with everything else and we can’t do another one, he’ll come in and say, ‘Can’t do it’” Wonderlich said.
Wonderlich also urged Beckley to get a better grasp on residents’ perception of him and his event. The attorney recommended Beckley knock on doors in the neighborhood near the jump site, as those residents will be most affected, he said.
“I would strongly encourage building whatever inroads into the community that you can as quick as you can so that people can at least have a better understanding of what’s going on here,” Rothweiler said. “I think that’s invaluable.”
Beckley agreed and promised to reach out. Overall, the daredevil said he was happy with how talks with the city were progressing.
“It’s a friendly room” he said. “We feel real good about this. Yeah, you guys have some stickler things that we are not particularly smiling about … but that’s why it’s called negotiation.”
Hall said “it’s called due diligence.”