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Details About the Giant Ferris Wheel Coming to Newport

A giant ferris wheel is officially on the way to Newport on the Levee.

SkyWheel is an observation wheel that will rise more than 235 feet above the Ohio River in Newport, providing panoramic views in climate-controlled gondolas.

There will be 30 gondolas including one VIP offering. Each fully accessible, glass-enclosed gondola will seat up to six adults and will offer 360-degree views of the Cincinnati skyline, Ohio River, and Northern Kentucky riverfront.    

Passengers will take three to four rotations on a safe and secure flight that will last approximately 10 to 12 minutes. The SkyWheel will operate on a year-round basis on the plaza level of Newport on the Levee adjacent to the Newport Aquarium. LED lighting displays will illuminate the attraction at night. St. Louis-based Koch Development - the creator of SkyWheel - expects Newport to draw approximately a half million riders annually.

Koch expects that the investment will be well in excess of $10 million and anticipates that construction will begin following final approval of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which regulates all construction projects along the Ohio River.  Subject to securing all approvals necessary, Koch is projecting a grand opening of SkyWheel Newport in the summer of 2017.

“A Ferris wheel resonates with the public. It sparks a feeling of nostalgia,” said Koch Development Managing Director Matthew Stack. “People know what it is. They are drawn to it. SkyWheel is awe-inspiring to look at and even better to ride.”

Koch Development Director of Attractions Mandy Kuhlman said, “This is a ride for families, for kids, for grandparents, for date nights. It’s for everyone. Our guests love the SkyWheel because they get to experience it together with their family and friends.” 

“SkyWheel Newport will certainly become an instant landmark and icon that will offer one of the most unique – if not the most unique – views and experience from which to see Northern Kentucky and Downtown Cincinnati. And riding it during the day or at night will provide completely different experiences,” Stack said.

In 2011, Koch Development developed SkyWheel Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, the first observation wheel of its kind in the United States. Koch continues to operate SkyWheel Myrtle Beach – which has become immensely popular with tourists and residents alike. In addition to SkyWheel Newport, Koch is planning to open SkyWheel Panama City Beach in Florida in mid-2017.

Koch is working with the operators of Newport on the Levee on design of the project buildings to be constructed at the foot of the SkyWheel. At this time Koch is proposing construction of a permanent event venue at the base of the SkyWheel overlooking the Ohio River that can accommodate birthday parties, corporate events, family reunions, and more. 

“We are very excited to work with Koch Development to bring SkyWheel to Newport on the Levee,” said Levee General Manager Harold Dull. “The SkyWheel will be a world-class attraction for the entire region. From more than 235 feet above the river, the sight lines of Northern Kentucky and the Cincinnati skyline will be spectacular.”

“This unique family-friendly observation wheel will attract visitors from all over the Tri-State and help to support Newport on the Levee’s position as the No. 1 dining and entertainment destination in the region,” Dull said.

Leaders in the City of Newport, who have also worked closely with Koch Development on the project, are energized by another major attraction being constructed on their riverfront.

“The SkyWheel is going to be iconic,” said Newport City Manager Tom Fromme. “It will be a tremendous attraction that will draw families and visitors to Newport and the Ohio Riverfront. We are anxious to continue working with Koch Development to make this exciting project a reality.”

Tourism in the region is expected to get a boost, too.

“The SkyWheel will be an exciting addition to Newport on the Levee, one of Northern Kentucky’s most successful visitor attractions, offering a fun experience and an incredible vista of both sides of the Ohio River,” said Eric Summe, President and CEO of meetnky/Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“It will complement an already wide array of destinations that Northern Kentucky and our neighbor Cincinnati share to make our region an attractive place to come, visit, and enjoy,” he said.

Eric Rose, executive director of the Newport Aquarium, said the "addition of the SkyWheel further strengthens Newport on the Levee's position as a vibrant regional tourism destination."

"We are excited to work with them to bring new visitors to Newport on the Levee to experience the stunning views of downtown Cincinnati and the Ohio River, as well as discover the wonder of the aquatic world at Newport Aquarium," Rose said.

SkyWheel will also offer sponsorship opportunities to businesses and organizations.

“Given that the SkyWheel will be seen by millions of people each year in person, in photography, on television and on social media there is a business opportunity for sponsorship that we are interested in exploring,” Stack said. 

In addition to Koch, the project development team currently includes Dutch Wheels, the manufacture of the wheel equipment; Bruce D. Robinson Design Group, the design planner; Thelen Associates, Inc., the geotechnical engineer; and Woolpert, engineer and architect.

-Staff report

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