July 2, 2012

Seattle’s new 175 foot tall Ferris Wheel open for business

Seattle's latest tourist attraction, destined to be a landmark, is a 17-story Ferris wheel billed as the tallest to go into year-round operation in the United States.

It opened to the public last Friday, giving riders a new panoramic view of theSeattle

Called the "Great Wheel" it has 42 enclosed gondolas with space for up to 252 passengers total. It stands 175-foot-tall and cost $20 million to build as part of a private-sector initiative to revitalize Seattle's waterfront.

The tallest wheel in the world is  Singapore's 541-foot Singapore Flyer, is more than twice as tall as Seattle's new wheel.

"Our whole idea was to create an attraction that was a neat thing to make people want to come down to the waterfront," said Griffith, vice president of Great Western Pacific Inc.

Seattle's new wheel extends 40 feet over Puget Sound's Elliott Bay at Pier 57  and weighs more than 280,000 pounds.

It's deluxe, each enclosed gondola has heating and air-conditioning and seats six passengers for the 12-minute, three-spin ride.

Tourism officials hope the Great Wheel will lure some of Seattle's 9.9 million annual overnight visitors to its central waterfront, a 1.5-mile (2.4-km) walk from the Space Needle, the city's most famous attraction.

High-tech Ferris wheels are undergoing a resurgence after being out of vogue for 30 years,

Staten Island, New York, has plans are in the works for a 600-foot-tall "observation wheel" to become the world's tallest.

Image courtesy of flickr.com by PJ Peterson

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