Friday, June 29, 2012

Giant Observation Wheel Proposed For New York City

A mega observation wheel four times higher and wider than Coney Island’s Wonder Wheel is planned for New York City.  The proposed 600 hundred foot viewing attraction would revitalize the northern end of Staten Island at the ferry terminal and create a new iconic structure for the skyline of New York City.

The Staten Island Advance reported early this week that New York’s Plaza Capital Group Management LLC plans to build the attraction over current parking lots on the north shore of Staten Island next to the ferry terminal.  The lots sit on both sides of Yankee’s minor league stadium.  In addition, other bids were proposed for the parcels with mix-use office and commercial spaces to be developed.  The bids were requests by the New York Economic Development Corporation (EDC) last year to revitalize the area at the St. George waterfront.

Spokesman for the EDC, Benjamin Branham said the agency is in negotiations with multiple respondents for the two sites.  Nothing else was mentioned due to EDC’s regulation against publicizing any information while request for bids are in the works.  Leaving some speculation as to whether or not the city will get its observation wheel
Parcels for development - Staten Island
This is not the first time that a giant observation wheel was proposed for New York.  Office Landlord Douglas Durst and Tom Fox, co-founder of New York Water Taxi, tried to bring an observation wheel to Governors Island unsuccessfully in the past.

In a recent statement, Mr. Fox said that they had once considered Staten Island, as well, for a possible site of the attraction, but felt it would be an unfeasible choice, due to that fact that the site sits five miles from the tip of Manhattan.  During bad weather, fog, or a heavy summer haze the view would be too obscure.

KC rendering of wheel distance to Manhattan southern tip - Google view

Also in 2004 backers of the London Eye planned to build s a similar wheel which would stand at 450 feet (close to the London Eye’s height) on the East River waterfront directly between Battery Park and the Brooklyn Bridge.  After a requested study done by the backers of Maddame Tassaud’s Wax Museum, the plan fizzled.

The London Eye
Though the ferry service to Staten Island hauls an estimated 2 million tourists a year, most visitors turn back immediately without exploring the Staten Island side.  Besides the commuters, most tourists take the ferry for the larger scope of the Manhattan skyline and the up-close views of the Statue of Liberty.  The area around the ferry terminal on Staten Island has been neglected and run down for decades with little or no retail or entertainment.  The proposed giant wheel and its connected amenities would spark a revitalization of the area.

Though some Coney Island lovers would fantasize about having a new gargantuan icon erected near the boardwalk to go along with its shiny new major features, surely an observation wheel at 600 feet high fits best where the islands of the metropolitan area meet.  Of course, other Coney lovers would balk at the idea of overshadow its current iconic structures, anyway
But a perfectly situated attraction like an observation wheel at any great viewing spot in New York City would generate big business.  The London Eye at 443 feet tall has been slowly churning on the South Bank of London at the Thames River for 12 years and each year attracting 3.5 million visitors.  London’s iconic attraction wheel is operated by The Merlin EntertainmentGroup, the second largest attraction operator in the world   Only second to the Disney Company and bigger than Universal.

Photo by Ethan Prater
The fascination with mega observation wheels are reflected in its big business around the world.  Already wheels have popped up in other major cities around the globe.  Giant observation structures  are being built or have already been built in Malaysia; Manchester, England; Singapore, and Melbourne, Australia, Berlin, Dubai, Beijing, Orlando and Las Vegas.

According to the New York Times; out of the 3.5 million visitors that the London Eye and other wheels experience per year, on an average – most riders usually pay $30 dollars or more for a half hour rotation. And usually a wheel will come with other major developments at its base.  At the foot of the observation wheels in both Singapore and Melbourne, visitors walk through shops and eateries as they make their way to boarding the structure.  Unlike the London Eye which has a slow queue line that wraps around it.  But the competition for these wheels are much like the race for skyscrapers; always building higher, more luxurious, and full of boasting amenities.  

The Wiener Riesenrad, Vienna
The newer and more slick observation wheels boasts climate controlled rotating capsules and hold about 30 to 40 visitors.  Some hold events like business meetings and private parties. Others come equipped with plasma screens and even bars.  A smaller observation wheel, more like a Ferris wheel, at only 152 feet tall in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan has proposed perhaps the only indoor wheel.  The base of the structure is planned to house a bowling alley, a multiplex, a restaurant, and even a planetarium.  The Wiener Riesenrad or Giant Wheel in Vienna, which was rebuilt in 1945 after the original (1897) burnt down, boasts 15 spacious gondolas with several decked out as formal dining carriages.
Las Vegas

When it comes to wheeling and dealing, Las Vegas will not be left behind.  Along its flagrant strip, two two observation wheel attractions are to be erected and add more neon to the night skyline.  One is already being in the construction phase.  The SkyVueobservation wheel near the Mandalay Bay will rise up 500 feet when completed and stand higher than the hotel casino itself.  SkyVue’s developer Howard Bullock said, “Many others have been talking about erecting an observation wheel in Las Vegas for years, we just decided we were going to do it”.

In a fast moving technological world where only soaring higher and pushing further seems to be the only way we can seek gratification from our success and triumph.  Colossal structures that defy our natural bounds are becoming another fascination in our quest for reaching and going over the limits for our amusements.

[Observation Wheels from around the world - after the jump]

Las Vegas
Alem entertainment center


London Eye

Las Vegas



Non-Wheel Observation Attraction

Proposed for Las Vegas



The Voyager V2 Observation Wheel in Las Vegas

The Voyager V2 Observation Wheel in Las Vegas

No comments: