Editorial: Everyone loves a Ferris wheel

By The Columbia Chronicle

Chicago is a world-class city. But Navy Pier, one of the city’s most recognized tourist attractions, is in need of a facelift.

The pier’s proposed new Ferris wheel is an excellent starting point. The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition (also known as McPier) hopes replacing the existing Ferris wheel with one twice the size will generate excitement and attract tourists. Upgrading the current wheel comes close to being a win-win situation for the city, residents and tourists.

The beauty behind the plan is that taxpayers will eventually reap the benefits of the pier’s upgrade, but they will not fund it. No taxpayer money will be involved. According to McPier, the new Ferris wheel will be self-financed. McPier board chairman Ted Tetzlaff said the plan is for the developer to construct the wheel and share a portion of its revenue with the pier.

McPier officials hope the privately developed Ferris wheel will stretch 300 feet into the air-twice that of the existing wheel. Officials want proposals for the new wheel to include heated and air-conditioned gondolas that can hold 25 to 30 people. The new wheel is expected to hold approximately 1,000 people at a time. The more people the Ferris wheel can hold, the more money it will generate.

A brand new Ferris wheel, especially one as colossal as McPier officials are hoping for, would help draw even more tourists to Navy Pier every year. According to the Chicago

Tribune, a ride on the current wheel lasts seven minutes and costs $6. The attraction draws in about 750,000 visitors per year.

With tourists already flocking to Navy Pier in droves, the new Ferris wheel will definitely increase the pier’s foot traffic. Increased tourism at the pier means increased tourism throughout the city, bringing an always-welcome economic boost.

The endeavor is also somewhat symbolic. Chicago is home to the Ferris wheel. It was invented to be the highlight of the World’s Fair held in Chicago, introduced to the world at the Columbian Exposition in 1893. Since then, other wheels-including the London Eye-have been built around the world. It is only fitting for the city that introduced the wheel to upgrade to a bigger, better, more noteworthy attraction.

According to McPier officials, the new Ferris wheel could be completed by 2010. The decision to move forward with this plan is a step that will help the city’s Olympic bid.

Overall, there is very little not to love about the proposed new Ferris wheel. Chicagoans are passionate about the city’s history, and this move is in keeping with that history. Further, Ferris wheels are just fun. Who doesn’t love a Ferris wheel? They appeal to the child at heart in many of us. The new wheel shows that Chicago is able to keep up with modernization efforts and continues to pave the way as a world-class city.