Chicago's Navy Pier to debut 196-foot Ferris wheel next year

AP News
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Posted: Jun 23, 2015 5:28 PM

CHICAGO (AP) — Navy Pier plans to debut a bigger and more luxurious 196-foot Ferris wheel when the Chicago tourist attraction celebrates its 100th anniversary next summer.

Standing 49 feet taller than the current Ferris wheel installed two decades ago, the replacement will fit up to 180 more passengers per ride. It will be outfitted with temperature-controlled gondolas that can carry up to 10 passengers each and feature padded seats, TV screens, speakers and condensation drainage systems.

The new model, which will be the first of its kind in the U.S., has already has been purchased with private funds. It was created by Dutch Wheels, the Netherlands-based company that built Navy Pier's current wheel.

While Navy Pier will be marking its centennial, the history of the Ferris wheel in Chicago goes back even further. The first Ferris wheel was built in 1893 for the city's World's Columbian Exposition.

The upgrade is part of a nearly $640 million project authorized two years ago by Mayor Rahm Emanuel that supports tourism and trade show redevelopment. Emanuel said it will bolster the city's efforts to attract 55 million visitors each year to Chicago by 2020 by bringing "new energy" to Navy Pier.

Navy Pier, Inc., the nonprofit that maintains and oversees the tourist attraction's redevelopment, spent six months searching for a new Ferris wheel that was the best match for the structural and operational requirements at the pier.

The Ferris wheel at Navy Pier will close for construction beginning in late September and will reopen next summer for the centennial celebration.