Article by Paul Milton Butler
Electronics multi-millionaire Stephen Baxter has jumped head-first into a new project-indoor skydiving.
The former North Rockhampton schoolboy’s latest project involves two former soldiers Wayne Jones and Daniel Hogan, who both served 15 years with the SAS. Danny also did a couple of years with the Navy Seals in the US. They plan to build Australia’s first indoor skydiving centre at Penrith in Sydney, at an estimated cost of over $12 million.
Mr Baxter said this week he had mentored the two men for 12 months on how best to go about setting up the business and how to raise capital to build the “jump centre” which would be the first in Australia. The three have become firm friends, with their close army connection. So much so that Mr Baxter has kicked in $2 million of his own money to help build the indoor skydive facilities in Penrith. The two former SAS members, along with Mr Baxter, plan to build the skydiving facility at Penrith Panthers’ entertainment complex in western Sydney.
Indoor Skydive Australia is hoping to raise $12 million through a share market float to build an 11m high, vertical wind tunnel at the Panthers’ complex. The tunnel will be one of the largest in the world, able to have eight skydivers in simulated freefall at one time – giant turbines are used to generate and updraft which holds the skydivers aloft. The group plans to roll out similar jump centres in Melbourne and the Gold Coast.
They plan to open the adrenalin-pumping facility in time for Christmas next year. The facility will be used to train military parachutists and civilian skydiving teams, as well as providing an exciting adrenaline ride for anyone from action-sports enthusiasts to children’s birthday parties and corporate team building.
Messrs Jones and Hogan were helped in setting up their dream by SAS Sergeant Blaine Diddams, who was killed in combat in Afghanistan earlier this year. Blaine’s uncle John Diddams is on the board of ISA and has significant corporate and start-up experience, with Mr Baxter serving as a non-executive director.
Development of the facility has been fully approved by Penrith City Council. The facility will be adjacent to the main entrance of the Penrith Panthers’ Leagues Club, which has 140,000 members and is about to begin an $850 million redevelopment.
The initial public offer of shares is anticipated to raise $12 million to construct the facility and for initial working capital, by the issue of 60 million shares at 20c each. The offer opened on November 5 and will close on December 5.
Mr Baxter said that he was thrilled to be involved and looked forward to being one of the “first jumpers”.