Newport Preparing for Development of SkyWheel on the Riverfront
Remember the ride you took on the Ferris wheel as a kid? You can soon recreate your childhood memories with the addition of this attraction to Newport on the Levee: A 180-foot observation wheel to be placed east of the Newport Aquarium. It would add another amusement and iconic destination to the banks of the Levee.
The Price Group, a California company which owns the Levee, is interested in expanding the Levee’s offerings and building a wheel with panoramic views of the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky riverfront.
Invented by George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr., an engineer, the first wheel made its debut in 1893 at Chicago’s World’s Columbian Exposition. It was moved to St. Louis for the 1904 World’s Fair. Now often called an observation wheel, it becomes part of a city’s fabric.
The Price Group has a letter of intent with St. Louis-based Koch Development company to build the wheel. The Levee’s general manager, Harold Dull, said the foundation of the platform will have to be dug in the flood-controlled, earthen levee. To make that happen, the Army Corps of Engineers has to approve this process. Dull believes the critical meeting to discuss this issue will take place in 30 to 60 days.
Once the Corps of Engineers approves the project, the process can move forward. Meetings among Dull, Newport city manager Tom Fromme, and Matthew Stack, managing director, Koch Development, have taken place over the past year, where the group looked at the site and reviewed plans.
Stack said a marketing and feasibility study has concluded that a SkyWheel (Koch’s brand name) would work well at Newport on the Levee. From a business sense, Dull agrees that an observation wheel will bring more traffic to the Levee. If approved, the wheel would take approximately one year to complete, with an opening in late fall of 2016.
“The wheel appeals to a wide demographic,” said Stack. Grandparents and families will be able to ride day and night. He added that Newport’s SkyWheel may be similar to the one in Myrtle Beach, which cost approximately $12.5 million. Stack anticipates a wheel with 42 enclosed gondolas which hold 6 adults. The budget and design for the SkyWheel are still in process. In Myrtle Beach, costs for the ride are $13.00 adults and $9.00 children, which will compare to prices in Newport.
“Based on the comments and questions that I have received from the public,” said Fromme, “I have no doubt that the SkyWheel will be a huge attraction for Newport and the entire region. This will be another important piece in bringing visitors to the riverfront. The wheel will definitely become an iconic symbol beside the Ohio River and Newport on the Levee.”
The city of Newport owns the property and is playing an active role in the development of the area.
Written by Laura A. Hobson
Photo: "Myrtle Beach SkyWheel" by Claire P. from Northern Virginia, USA - Myrtle BeachUploaded by jbarta. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons