TWIN FALLS – Fox Broadcasting has pulled the plug on plans to televise two teams’ efforts to jump the Snake River Canyon on the 40th anniversary of Evel Knievel’s failed attempt to do the same.
“Due to production timelines and budget concerns, we have decided to not move forward with the Jump of the Century,” a Fox spokeswoman wrote in an email Wednesday.
The decision calls into question the plans of both Texas daredevil “Big Ed” Beckley and the team of Hollywood stuntman Eddie Braun and rocket builder Scott Truax, who were slated to appear on television screens around the nation per Fox’s mid-May decision.
With 46 days remaining until Knievel’s jump anniversary day in September, both jumpers said they’d push forward.
The news echoes the troubles Knievel faced decades ago when ABC Sports soured on the idea. Investors who funded Knievel’s stunt on closed circuit television took significant financial losses.
Beckley, who declined Wednesday to speak to the media directly, wrote on his website that he is “undaunted” by the development and would seek other “media partners.”
“We will not sacrifice safety, our integrity, and our just reward for attempting a real motorcycle jump over the canyon,” Beckley wrote. He hasn't announced a date for his jump.
Braun will still jump on Sept. 7, said project attorney Paul Arrington. Having built significant infrastructure and with three rockets under various states of construction, the team is beyond the point of no return, he said.
“We are very disappointed with Fox,” Arrington said.
Arrington said the team did not pause its work when Fox wanted to delay the jump to late October. But Beckley discouraged fans from making September travel plans to see his jump.
“(Beckley) put all his eggs in that basket and now he has got nothing,” Arrington said.
While in negotiations with Fox, however, Braun and team did not shop the project to other broadcasters, Arrington said. Now the team is aggressively pursuing all options.
Braun and team have been filming a documentary on the project; should no broadcasters step forward, Arrington said, they will lean on that film as the jump’s main funding vessel.
“Our plan from the very beginning is that no matter what happens we are going to have a rocket jump,” Arrington said.
Beckley has faced consistent adversity in his desire to jump the canyon on a rocket-powered motorcycle since last September when he spent nearly $1 million at a Boise auction to lease state land on the north edge of the canyon.
Since that auction, Beckley was convinced he’d ink a broadcast deal, which would be the main funding source of the stunt. Not more than an hour after winning the auction, he said he had numerous phone messages from area codes in New York and Los Angeles and an offer “from a network with a ‘C’ on the end of it.”
The Twin Falls City Council, however, turned down his bid to launch his rocket from Knievel’s dirt ramp, now city property, citing concerns about Beckley’s ability to keep the town safe from the hordes of spectators the event would draw.
In mid-March, Beckley was hospitalized with four broken ribs when his attempt to jump nine cars on his motorcycle came up one car short and he was thrown, end-over-end, during the New Mexico stunt.
In the months since, Beckley scaled back his plans for a 40,000-attendee event concurrent with the jump, scrapping the idea altogether in early July.
The daredevil told the Times-News in May that he had spent $1.6 million on the project and had not turned a wrench on a rocket-powered motorcycle.
The team pushing the Braun-Truax jump has always stayed at arm's length of the ups and downs Beckley faced, consistently designing and building rockets throughout the planning process.
That team's effort was initially started by Twin Falls businessman Scott Record, who steered the project around the city’s permitting process by taking the jump to the county’s jurisdiction.
After the team hired Braun as its jumper, it succumbed to infighting detailed in emails Record submitted to police when he unsuccessfully sought charges of theft and blackmail against Braun and Truax. Braun bought Record out and is still bankrolling the project out-of-pocket.
“(Braun) is very proud of the fact that we’ve got six employees building the rocket and we’ve hired engineers, earth-movers, accounting firms and other people – a lot of money is being spent in this community for this project,” Arrington said.
The team is seeking a special recreation permit from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management that would allow it to temporarily close access to public land the evening before Sept. 7 until two hours following the launch for safety and crowd control. More information can be found at http://bit.ly/BLMJumpPermit
The public can comment on the proposal through Aug. 4 by email to email@example.com.