The Midwest's most popular tourist destination was eerily empty Tuesday as Navy Pier closed its doors to visitors to make way for a new and improved Ferris wheel. Working under the flags of their respective nations, contractors based in the US, Netherlands, and Germany used cranes to carefully hoist three of the six legs that comprise the wheel's base into position. Each 120-foot leg weighs 36,000 pounds and will ultimately support the wheel's total mass of nearly 1,000,000 pounds. The new ride is designed to reach a maximum height of 196 feet -- some 50 feet higher than the previous wheel that graced the Pier from 1995 to 2015.
Though Navy Pier's new Ferris wheel will be smaller than giants like the London Eye and Las Vegas' High Roller, which stand respectively at 450 and 550 feet, its dimensions are primarily dictated by the site constraints of the pier. The increase in wheel size will certainly afford riders an improved vantage point to enjoy Chicago's iconic skyline, but the most notable feature of the new attraction will be its 42 enclosed, temperature-controlled gondolas. Compared to the previous open-air 6-person cabs, these new 10-person carriages will allow visitors to comfortably ride the wheel year-round and in all weather conditions.
Navy Pier will be closed again today as the international team of specialists erect the Ferris wheel's remaining support structures. Work to build the rest of the wheel will be ongoing as Pier officials aim to see the attraction completed ahead of this Summer's Navy Pier's centennial celebration and America's Cup regatta. The new Ferris wheel is just one part of a larger initiative to transform the Pier from kitschy tourist trap to more of a shared public meeting space and lakefront park.
[Photos by Curbed Chicago/Jay Koziarz]
·Construction Begins on Navy Pier's New Ferris Wheel [Tribune]
·Navy Pier's Newer, Taller Ferris Wheel is Officially On Its Way [Curbed Chicago]
·The Carnival is Over: How a Transformed Navy Pier Will Change Chicago [Curbed Chicago]