The Air Up There

Tethered to the ground, a Navy Pier balloon ride would last about 15 minutes and cost $25.

Some historians say the 'Windy City' earned its nickname from the "refreshing lake breezes" advertised in the late 1800s. Others say the "wind" is from all the hot air provided by Chicago's politicians.

Soon, you may be able to experience both the gentle Lake Michigan winds and a whole lot of hot air at Navy Pier.

AeroBalloon plans to open a new balloon ride at the tourist destination as early as this year. The helium-filled balloon, which would be tethered to the ground, can carry up to 14 passengers to a height of over 350 feet. The ride would last approximately 15 minutes and cost $25 for passengers over age 13.

"It's extremely safe," Juan Ochoa, chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, told the Chicago Sun-Times. "People will essentially be attached to the balloon by the harness they will have to wear."

The new ride will be discussed at the August 20 meeting of the Chicago Plan Commission, even though it may not need the board's approval.

Navy Pier is Chicago's most popular tourist attraction, but attendance has declined during the recession. Ochoa hopes to remedy this with the new ride.

"It's like almost any other tourist destination – it's important from time to time you have a new attraction," he said.

Matt Bartosik, a "between blogs" blogger, wonders which politician's hot air will be used to fill the balloon.

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