The battle to re-invent the Ferris wheel

  • 03/08/2016
Sun shines from behind the London Eye (Reuters)
Sun shines from behind the London Eye (Reuters)

Around the world, a quiet revolving war is underway as cities battle it out to build the biggest and best Ferris wheel.

The view atop Chicago's Centennial Wheel is hard to beat. With Lake Michigan's blue canvas as the backdrop, nearly one-million people take a spin each year.

"It's just become a part of the Chicago skyline," says Brian Murphy, chief operating officer for Navy Pier, which runs the wheel. "If you don't see the wheel, something is wrong."

It stands 60 metres high, but it isn't the city's first. In fact, the very first Ferris wheel was in Chicago.

"We had the original wheel here in 1893, at the World's Fair, 1893," says Mr Murphy.

George Ferris built his 80-metre wheel to rival the Eiffel Tower, and others have been trying to outdo him ever since. The London Eye stands at 135 metres. The High Roller in Las Vegas is 30 metres higher than that.

"Seems to be a war," says Mr Murphy. "It's a wheel war out there."

The next battlefield is New York City's Staten Island, where the world's largest wheel is currently being built. The New York Wheel, at 192 metres tall, will be double the size of the Statue of Liberty and open next year.

"To us, it's not about being the biggest; it's about having a grandness of scale and, more importantly, a grandness of place," says Rich Marian, CEO of the project.

But with Dubai planning an even taller wheel, New York City won't hold the title of world's largest for long, which leaves Chicago with something none of them can duplicate.

"Even before they even build it, someone is planning to beat it, but there is only one number one, and we're the first, and no one will ever take that away from us," says Mr Murphy.

Sometimes history does come full circle.

CBS News