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Newport's SkyWheel Expected to Open Late Next Year

The SkyWheel project is moving forward in Newport.

The $13 million effort to place a 200-ft. high ferris wheel on the banks of the Ohio River took a step forward when St. Louis-based Koch Development tapped Woolpert to engineer the site and base structure at Newport's Festival Park.

SkyWheel Newport will rise roughly 235 feet above the river - or basically twenty stories up, with thirty gondolas that hold six passengers each.

It will be located just north of Newport on the Levee between the Taylor-Southgate Bridge and the Purple People Bridge.

The ferris wheel is expected to weigh 160 tons and is being manufactured by Dutch Wheels.

Woolpert Engineering Project Manager Mike Timko said the base structure will be similar to a highway overpass, with an open footprint to allow for the free flow of traffic underneath in the Festival Park area.

“SkyWheel Newport will bisect the park, so the base is being designed on columns approximately 25 feet high,” Timko said in a news release. “This will alleviate the city of Newport’s concerns regarding access to or from other park attractions, and will allow vehicles as large as fire and emergency equipment and semis (semitractor-trailers) to travel beneath it. All of the festival tents and food vendors, etc., can be brought in the same as they are today.”

Woolpert will also create an 80-ft.-long bridge structure to connect the SkyWheel to the Levee plaza.

“The bridge structure was initially modeled after a parking garage deck concept,” Timko said. “However, since there is no vehicular access on the plaza, the bridge structure will be primarily for pedestrian traffic and maintenance access.”

Plans for SkyWheel Newport have been discussed for several years, but were delayed due to flood protection concerns.

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) requires that the SkyWheel project will not degrade the structural integrity of the levee, so we had to move the structural base about 80 feet north, off the levee,” Timko said. “Levees are federally protected flood control structures and are regulated by the USACE.”

The current base design is anticipated to be resubmitted for approvals to the USACE this month, and construction is expected to begin in the spring. The SkyWheel Newport should open for business in late 2018.

SkyWheel Attractions and Koch Development, led by President Matthew Stack, developed and continue to operate SkyWheel Myrtle Beach in South Carolina.

-Staff report

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