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Park News

Wheel Wars USA US cities compete for ‘world’s largest Ferris Wheel’

development by Caesars Entertainment encompassing an open-air retail, dining and entertainment district located in the middle of the Strip.

Ceasars Palace’s High Roller wheel

Catching on somewhat late to the observation wheel trend, a number of US cities are now pushing ahead with plans for a giant Ferris Wheel – and more than one is striving for world record status.

As we noted last issue, the USA’s relatively late arrival to the party (save for a few smaller semi-portable rides around the country) is somewhat ironic given that the States pioneered the Ferris Wheel with George W Ferris’ original construction at the 1883 Chicago Exposition. The High Roller, which its developers claim will be the world’s largest observation wheel, is one of two rides that could soon rise above the sands of Las Vegas. The 550-feet -tall(167m) attraction will overlook the Caesars Palace and Hurrah’s hotels/casinos.

Caesars Entertainment has selected The Hettema Group as designer and art director for the project, with Arup and the American Bridge Company responsible for its engineering and construction. The ski-lift and transportation specialist Poma will provide the gondolas. "The Hettema Group is thrilled to be working with Ceasars Entertainment,” notes Phil Hettema, president and creative executive of his eponymous company. “Our goal has been to create both an iconic, elegant and unique design for the wheel, as well as a festive and unforgettable guest experience from beginning to end."

Rising parallel to the Las Vegas Strip, the High

Roller will be a distinctive new addition to the gambling haven’s skyline, with 28 air- conditioned cabins capable of carrying 40 people each. Each ride will last 30 minutes, and Ceasers reckon as many as 4.5 million passengers could climb aboard each year. Work is now underway on the ride, with opening apparently planned in around a year’s time (late 2013). The attraction will form the centrepiece of The LINQ, a new $550 million


The High Roller is expected to have competition from The Skyvue Las Vegas, a 500ft (152m) wheel across the road from Mandalay Bay, also on the Las Vegas Strip. This particular observation wheel is slated to have a 50,000-square-foot LED screen on each side. Park World could not establish the manufacturer at the time of writing. In New York City, officials are hoping 4.5 million people a year will eventually take a ride on the 630ft-tall (192m) New York Wheel, slated to open by the end of 2015. Constructed by the Dutch-based company Starneth it will be located in the NYC borough of Staten Island, near the dock for the Staten Island Ferry terminal, where it will form part of a $500 million development including an outlet mall and a hotel.

The ride will consist of 36 capsules each capable of carrying 40 passengers, providing hourly capacity for 1,440 riders, who will enjoy views across the water of the Manhattan skyline. The project requires City Council approval. In Orlando, a giant wheel will be built on International Drive as part of a 19-acre development from Unicorp National Developments. The 450ft (137m) I-Drive Live Wheel will be operated by Merlin Entertainments together with a Sea Life aquarium and a Madame Tussauds wax museum. The ride will be supplied by Intamin subsidiary IntaRide, and is slated to open iwithin the next two years. Meanwhile in China, reports suggest a wheel of around 200 metres could be built in the city of Wuhan by 2016. When it comes to bragging rights for world’s biggest, you’re in a losing battle almost from the moment you start, which is why the added development planned for each of American projects is important.

Currently in the final stages of assembly in Munich, the R80XL is the largest and latest observation wheel yet from Bussink Design. This 78-metre (250ft) construction will feature a non-stop revolving operation and 54 climate-controlled gondolas.

Cabins are available in many different configurations, including standing, back-to- back or face-to-face seating, as well as various VIP options. As an alternative to the standard eight-passenger gondolas, customers can opt for 27 larger 16-passenger cabins. The first R80XL will be delivered in the beginning of 2013 to a customer in Europe. Meanwhile Chance Rides has signed a long term licence agreement to manufacture and sell the R80XL in North America. Details of the ride will be on display at the company’s booth at IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando. Notwithstanding various permanent constructions planned around the United States, the ride would potentialy be the highest wheel in North America since the original Ferris Wheel at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

New Bussink wheel coming soon

The proposed New York Wheel on Staten Island NOVEMBER 2012

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