Having — and sharing — adventures is the main theme in the life of Jim Seay, the 53-year-old president and owner of Premier Rides, a Baltimore-based company that makes theme park rides.
The items he treasures most reflect that, whether it's one of his many past Super Bowl tickets or the photo commemorating the time he spent floating in zero gravity with famed physicist Stephen Hawking.
Like the rides he creates, Seay is constantly on the move. Almost every week, he's on a plane, working on projects in Europe, China, India, Singapore and, most recently, Qatar.
"They're investing over $200 billion for the World Cup, and we're honored to be a part of that effort," he says.
When Seay comes back to Baltimore, it's to his waterfront townhome in Canton, where he lives with girlfriend Sara Ingram and her schnauzer, Mercedes. Here, the second half of his life credo — Work hard, play hard — kicks in.
If there's a good party or festival in town, he's there. Or he's throwing it. If there's a new hot spot, expect to see the perennial bachelor there, with Ingram at his side. Seay also spends time — and money — at nonprofit fundraisers, and serves on the boards of Living Classrooms Foundation and National Aquarium.
Seay's history is a bit of a wild ride itself. His biological father abandoned him and his mother when Seay was born in Switzerland. When he was 7 or 8, he says, they moved to the United States and settled in Connecticut, where his mother married an artist who had fled his native Hungary after the Soviet-quashed revolution there in 1956. After attending Cornell University and California State University, Long Beach, Seay began his career in the Los Angeles area, working as a project engineer on stealth missiles for Hughes Aircraft. Seven years later, he was hired by Six Flags Theme Parks.
"I started as a rocket scientist and transitioned to being a thrill-ride designer. It requires the same type of technical skills," he says.
Seay moved to Baltimore in 1995 as an executive with the newly founded Premier Rides. He took the helm a year later.
His quest to reach new heights — whether in business or life in general — Seay says, is similar to the feeling he and others get from the rides he creates.
"I love thrills because the attractions — especially the ones that we build — they put you out on the edge where you're not in control any more."