Navy Pier Begins Building New Ferris Wheel

CHICAGO (CBS) — Navy Pier has closed for two days to begin the first stage of construction on a new Ferris wheel.

Last fall, the iconic Ferris wheel at Navy Pier was dismantled, to make way for an even bigger one. At 196 feet tall, it will be nearly 50 feet taller than the previous one. It will have 42 climate-controlled gondolas, able to fit 10 people each, and featuring entertainment systems with interactive video screens.

Designed by Netherlands-based Dutch Wheels, it is the same model as the Observation Wheel in Hong Kong, and will be able to withstand winds of up to 115 mph.

The first stage of construction, which will require Navy Pier to be closed Tuesday and Wednesday, involves using large cranes to install six massive support columns and the center hub for the new Ferris wheel.

The extreme cold Tuesday morning added to an already challenging workload.

“These guys are tough. They’re out there, and we have some heating rooms for them, but they just keep plugging along. They just keep working. We brought out some portable heaters. If they need to use those, they can use those,” Navy Pier chief operating officer Brian Murphy said.

Later this week, crews will begin installing the spokes of the Ferris wheel, which will take several weeks. Workers also plan to install 7,000 LED lights.

When complete in mid-April, the new Ferris wheel will weigh nearly a million pounds, twice as heavy as its predecessor. The new structure will be 50 feet taller than its predecessor, and it will have 42 gondolas, will hold up to 420 passengers. The gondolas will be climate controlled and there will be one VIP gondola with a glass bottom. The wheel will be open year round and each gondola will have an entertainment center with video screens inside.

The new structure will be 50 feet taller than its predecessor. (Credit: Lisa Fielding)

The new structure will be 50 feet taller than its predecessor. (Credit: Lisa Fielding)

After construction of the Ferris wheel is done, there will be another 6-8 weeks of work on landscaping and the infrastructure around it. Officials hoped to have the Ferris wheel up and running by Memorial Day weekend.

The previous wheel was installed in 1995, conducted more than 16.9 million rides throughout its 20 year history.

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