November 11, 2012

Which Ferris wheels are the fairest?


Staten Island recently suffered terrible devastation at the hands of Sandy. I couldn’t help but wonder how recovery would affect the proposed 625-foot, $230 million Ferris wheel to be known as the New York Wheel. If completed, it will overlook the recently renovated Statue of Liberty and the iconic Manhattan skyline. Can you imagine 1,440 passengers spinning around at the same time? The original timetable called for an opening in 2015, but nobody has predicted if that deadline is possible now.

The world’s present tallest is the Singapore Flyer at 541 feet. The Star of Nanchang in China is 525 feet. The so-called London Eye is 443 feet. Compare those to the original one designed by George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago. It was gigantic for its time, soaring to 264 feet.

Many huge Ferris wheels have been designed, but plans have been scrapped for one reason or another. Each was predicted to be the world’s tallest. A couple future wheels have been announced for Las Vegas. One, scheduled to open at the end of 2015, is called the High Roller and is planned for 550 feet. Another — the Skyvue Las Vegas Super Wheel — will be close to 500 feet and was scheduled to open late next year, but construction has slowed to a crawl several times.

The tallest of all would be Russia’s Moscow View, planned for 722 feet. That construction is said to have stopped with no prediction for completion. I have also read of many more in the 600- to 700-foot range that have yet to be finished.

Ferris wheels were alternatively called “observation wheels,” and similar rides date back to the 17th century. A year before the first Ferris wheel, a man named William Somers put 50-foot wooden “roundabout” wheels at Coney Island, Atlantic City and Asbury Park. He and Ferris got into a heated patent infringement battle, but it was tossed out of court because of design differences.

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