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The Great Seattle Ferris Wheel

Seattle Waterfront from the Columbia Center Sky View Observatory

The Seattle Waterfront is a place where I spend a great deal of time. As a matter of fact, I’ve walked down to the waterfront on four of the last five days.

Ivar’s, Crab Pot, the Aquarium, Waterfront Park, Olympic Sculpture Park, Miner’s Landing, the Ferries … even though it’s not on most resident’s list of places to recreate, The Waterfront is certainly near the top of mine, and it soon may climb even higher.

On Tuesday, it was announced that the construction of a gigantic ferris wheel on Pier 57 will soon be underway.

Seattle Waterfront Ferris Wheel

The reason I didn’t write about it then was because, when I first heard the news, I didn’t believe it would actually see fruition. The Ballard Monorail, the Capitol Hill Gondola, the “Seattle Supersonics” … Seattle is a town where the best laid plans come to die, and the worst-laid plans come to flourish (deep-bore tunnel under downtown anyone?)

Apparently, however, this ferris wheel is the real deal. Not only is it going to be built, but preliminary construction actually began yesterday, and the wheel is expected to be open by the 4th of July.

THIS fourth of July.

100 days from now.

That is why, at this point, I am allowing myself to indulge in a bit of cautious excitement.

Pier 57, is already a pretty cool place. It has a few shops, a merry-go-round, and is a great place to relax and absorb the beauty of the Olympic Mountains, Puget Sound, and the West Seattle Peninsula. It’s always lacked a strong draw, though. A killer app.

A new ferris wheel may just be that killer app. Especially a wheel of the proposed size.

Now, few things are all good, and this ferris wheel is no exception.

I do worry about the aesthetics of the thing. At a height of 200′, the wheel is going to have a significant impact on the Seattle Skyline.

The Seattle Waterfront

The Seattle Waterfront

The Seattle Waterfront

The Seattle Waterfront

The Seattle Waterfront

The Seattle Waterfront

The Seattle Skyline

The Seattle Skyline

People think I am biased when I say that Seattle has the greatest skyline in all of the world, and maybe I am, but I honestly do believe it to be true. I’ve travelled extensively, I’ve tirelessly studied photographs of the places I haven’t been, and there are plenty of worthy contenders out there … Chicago and San Francisco being particularly notable.

Nothing, however, matches the combination of Seattle’s Downtown, fronted by an arm of the Pacific Ocean, against the backdrop of the Cascades, preceded by the Space Needle, and punctuated by the glacier-covered, most topologically-prominent mountain in the lower 48 states.

The combination of these features, taken as a whole, all within the same visual field, is simply without equal.

This being the case, how will a 200′ ferris wheel fit into the picture? Won’t it look … silly?

As a tireless photographer, admirer, resident, and obsessor-over of the Seattle Skyline, it does concern me.

And what about the view from the inside looking out? Since it’s on the edge of the pier, it shouldn’t affect the view of Mt. Rainier for many people, but it will partially obscure the view of arriving/departing ferries from Victor Steinbrueck Park.

The other thing that concerns me is the price. Initial reports are that the ferris wheel will cost $12 per-adult, and $8 per child to ride. A typical family is looking at $40-$48 for what I assume will be a 5 minute-ish spin.

I supposed this is not out-of-line for a tourist attraction, but as someone who incorporates all attractions, even “tourist” attractions, into my daily routine (I have an annual pass to the Space Needle and shop at Pike Place Market weekly), I won’t ride the wheel terribly often at this price unless I ride it alone … and riding a ferris wheel alone would just be … sad.

Hopefully, there will be an annual/local’s pass offering. Even if it’s only good for non-summer months, I think it would be an important addition. Seattle has tons of fairweather friends who love our city from June through September, but it’s residents that keep our businesses afloat for the other 8 months of the year.

We’ll have to see how things progress, but all things considered, I am excited about the new wheel. I think it will be an overall positive for Seattle in general, and a huge positive for the Waterfront in particular.

The wheel will be 175′ in diamater, and the entire ride, including stand, will be 200′ tall. It will have 42 air-conditioned gondolas, weigh 280,000lbs, and stand on a concrate base weighing 550 tons.

The wheel will extend 40′ feet over the edge of Pier 57, holding the gondolas directly over the Puget Sound for a portion of the ride.

The new ferris wheel, which may be named either the “Seattle Whee” or more likely “The Great Seattle Wheel”, is expected to open in June or July of 2012.

Update: The Grand Opening of The Seattle Great Wheel is on June 29, 2012 from 5pm – 1am.

Regular hours will be M-F 11am – Midnight and Weekends 11am -1am.

Ticket prices are $13 for adults (age 12+) and $8.50 for children (12 years and under).

The Seattle Great Wheel is located at 1301 Alaskan Way on Pier 57.

7 comments to The Great Seattle Ferris Wheel

  • Bob Smith

    You lost me at “air conditioned gondolas”. Really? Think about it a minute Rex. How do you have air conditioned gondolas and still be a ferris wheel? A ferris wheel is a ride that you and your girl/friend/whoever ride to have the thrill of a rocking seat that gives you a birds-eye view of your surroundings while at the back of your mind is that small kernal of unrealistic fear of somehow falling out when one or the other of you starts rocking the seat!

    Try rocking that gondola!

  • Chuckreis

    $12 for a 5 minute ride, sounds like your mom’s rates.

    • Seattle Rex Seattle Rex

      $12 for a 5 minute ride, sounds like your mom’s rates.

      For you, maybe.

      With my family discount, I don’t pay nearly that much.

  • Theresa Garrido

    This Seattle native finds the whole thing appalling! My poor waterfront…going “Coney Island” for a few extra tourists. Thunmbs down.

  • yep

    so stupid. will end up costing around $20 million when finished

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