Sky-high Ferris wheels – latest urban fad?

Tianjin Eye - Source:

Tianjin Eye – Source:

Until the past few days, I had not realized how many cities have added an enormous Ferris wheel as an urban attraction. Yes, I knew of the London Eye and even visited it myself in 2008, though the queue and ticket price were prohibitive to riding it.

London Eye - Source:

London Eye – Source:

Fast forward to today where page three of the American Planning Association’s guide to its 2014 National Planning Conference shows a large Ferris wheel in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. And just last Sunday, I observed a similar Ferris wheel along Seattle’s waterfront from an aerial view of the city during a commercial break in the NFC Championship game.

As planners, we have seen our share of megaproject fads meant to attract people into and revitalize downtown areas – arenas, stadium, enclosed malls, casinos, aquariums, etc. Comparatively, a Ferris wheel can be “relatively” inexpensive. That being said, proposed mega-wheels like the 625 foot tall Ferris wheel on the north end of New York City’s Staten Island, will cost many millions to construct.

Staten Island Wheel Source:

Staten Island Wheel – Source:

Whether all these wheels will be successful in the long run is a prudent question. The SkyView Ferris wheel that opened in downtown Atlanta in 2013 was originally located in Paris, then Switzerland, and then in Pensacola prior to its current home in the capital city of the Peach State. The 197 foot tall Dublin Wheel in Ireland is another failed example, as it operated for less than two years. Only time will tell whether mega-wheels are a passing fad or a successful entertainment amenity and economic development tool. Aside from Asia, where they seem quite popular, my guess is sky-high Ferris wheels will primarily be successful in unique and specialized locations, but certainly not everywhere. As a result, those that are cities considering such a stratospheric venture should proceed with due diligence, caution, and care.

Another view of the Tianjin Eye - Source:

Another view of the Tianjin Eye – Source:

Below is a list of those taller fixed Ferris wheels constructed located in “urban settings”. It does not include those installed or erected for temporary events like state fairs or solely within amusement parks.

  • Dubai Eye, UAE – 689 feet (under construction)
  • New York (Staten Island) Wheel, USA – 625 feet (2016)
  • Las Vegas High Roller, USA – 550 feet (2014)
  • Singapore Flyer, Singapore – 541 feet (2008)
  • Nanchang Star, China – 525 feet (2006)
  • London Eye, UK – 445 feet (1999)
  • Changsha Ferris Wheel, China – 394 feet (2004)
  • Fukuoka Sky Dream, Japan – 394 feet (2002)
  • Melbourne Southern Star #2, Australia – 394 feet (2011)
  • Suzhou Ferris Wheel, China – 394 feet (2009)
  • Tianjin Eye, China – 390 feet (2007)
  • Tokyo Diamond and Flower Wheel – 384 feet (2001)
  • Odaiba Dainkanransha, Japan – 377 feet (1999)
  • Yokohama Cosmo Clock 21 #2, Japan – 369 feet (1999)
  • Osaka Tempozan, Japan – 369 feet (1997)
  • Harbin Ferris Wheel, China – 361 feet (2003)
  • Shanghai Ferris Wheel, China – 354 feet (2002)
  • Kitakyushu, Space Eye, Japan – 328 feet
  • Osaka HEP Five Wheel, Japan – 246 feet (1998)
  • Moscow 850, Russia  – 230 feet (1997)
  • Atlanta SkyView, USA – 200 feet (2013)
  • Dublin Wheel, Ireland – 197 feet (2009-2011)
  • Kagoshima Amuran, Japan – 197 feet (2004)
  • Manila Mall of Asia Eye, Philippines – 180 (2011)
  • Niagara Falls Skywheel, Canada – 175 feet (2006)
  • Seattle Great Wheel, USA – 175 feet (2012)

UPDATE: added the following three wheels after the list was first published:

  • Kaohshiung Eye, Taiwan – 164 feet (2002)
  • Chicago Navy Pier, USA – 150 feet (1995)
  • Capetown Cape Wheel, South Africa – 131 feet

Source: unless otherwise highlighted.

Below is a famous Ferris wheel scene from the movie 1941.

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4 Responses to Sky-high Ferris wheels – latest urban fad?

  1. Paul F says:

    You forgot Chicago!


    • Rick Brown says:

      Debated whether to include it since in many ways Navy Pier could be considered an amusement park. Decided against including it as I did with the one in Myrtle Beach. May have to rethink that. Thanks!


  2. Stephen Bate says:

    There are several Big wheels continuously on tour around the UK. They are 60m (197 ft) high and are are located in city centres, such as Birmingham, Cardiff, York, Nottingham and Derby. They are erected in 2-3 days, stay for about 1 month then move onto another city. There are others which appear to be semi-permanent, such as the one at the Albert Dock in Liverpool. I recall going up in the one at Birmingham, which had previously been located in Paris, and still had the French commentary in the gondolas!


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