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US Plans to Top Brits as Orlando Builds World's Tallest Ferris Wheel to Outdo London

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by copythis

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In The News

The U.S. wants to top London--literally. Orlando, Florida, has just approved plans for a US $100 million dollar project to build the world's tallest ferris wheel. It's modeled after London's project. But Orlando thinks the "London Eye" is 'so 2000'. Plus, Orange County really needs something fun after Casey Anthony. This one's going to be fun: Slated the tallest in the world, Orlando Ferris Wheel is going to top out at nearly 500 feet -- taller than the Statue of Liberty.

A Florida developer wants to top off an abandoned plaza that currently exists on International Drive. The newest world's tallest Ferris wheel will rise to be almost 45 stories high -- roughly, just under 500 feet tall. The signatures were rolling in from the development committee on August 10. And those involved want more than height, they also want speed: The tallest Ferris wheel is slated to be built and ready for riders in less than two, short years.

The Ferris wheel's developer Chuck Wittal brags: “It'll be taller than the sun trust building downtown. It'll be taller than the Peabody hotel.” Local Florida developers are dubbing the new wheel the “Orlando Eye.” Neither the concept nor the name is really so unique. The London version is known as the "London Eye". Hopefully the builders involved are more adept at building than creative marketing skills. But the developers seem to be focusing on that old theory: "Build it, and they will come." Someone better hope that proves true after a $100 hundred million bucks investment. The "Orlando Eye" plans to make the big bucks through a hefty fare per rider -- but the U.S. version is outdoing London again, slashing that rider fee by half to just $15 a ride for “Orlando Eye" participants.

These guys aren't fooling around: The Florida developers want to start building the "Orlando Eye" right after the holiday season and New Year -- by January 2012. Two years building would put that ending timeframe somewhere near...right before New Year's 2014. Yet one more similarity to the "London Eye" which had really, really hoped to open in time to celebrate the turn to 2000. They kind of missed that mark -- a fact which will serve as a slap in the face to London counterparts if Orlando not only tops the Brits' height, and also opens on time.

Technically the "London Eye" name consists of "London Eye Millennium Wheel." Maybe its developers weren't so fond of Ferris. Or simply really wanted to push that Millennium marketing ploy that was so huge at the time. But then, nowadays, calling yourself the 'Millennium' anything just kind of sounds outdated -- or lame.

For what will probably cost about a buck a minute, "Orlando Eye" Ferris wheel riders will get sky-high views that span 360-degrees of the Orange County, Florida, skyline. For those spooked by tall heights, the only upside may be the completely encapsulated bubbles which load riders into what seems a more 'cozy' space if you're going to be suspended in hundreds of feet in the air. The "Orlando Eye" will weigh over 660 tons and its rolling spindle will weight more than 15 commercial airliners or planes. The new attraction plans to accommodate more than 4300 visitors to entertain per hour -- more people than fit on the world's largest, luxury cruise ship.

It seems the Florida developers aren't just 'borrowing' from London: They've also got an eye on Orlando's Universal Studios. The new "Orlando Eye" has got some plans on the down-low, that seem to indicate the idea of a functioning 'mini me' of the competitor's theme park. The Ferris Wheel may be the least of the scenario: Developers reportedly want to include a restaurant row, two hotels, a wax museum -- and even an aquarium. If they found a way to throw in a little 'Harry Potter', it may prove a very profitable spot indeed.

"Orlando Eye" developers claims its new Ferris Wheel alone is slated to bring in tourists by the millions. WFTV asked some tourists if they'd pay the $15 it will cost to ride. That means the new wheel needs just under 7 million (or about 6,666,667 riders) to make its quota. It's going to be big in more ways than one: The ride's and development are expected to bring about 1,500 new jobs.

So, it appears, the battle for the 'best and biggest' continues. The "London Wheel" was the British answer to outdoing the United States -- designed to surpass the New York 'Statue of Liberty' landmark. The Brits accomplished that goal but missed the mark in other areas. The London tourist attraction garners about 2 million visitors per year but retains its share of controversy. First was that timing: The whole goal (thus its 'Millennium' name) was to open the Ferris wheel before the turn to 2000. Unfortunately, some operational issues meant the "London Eye" never truly got rolling until March of 2000 -- when it opened three months late. Standing at 443 feet high, the "London Eye" -- if all goes to Florida plan -- will get blown away by the "Orlando Eye" wheel that will stand roughly 10% taller than its London competitor.

It may be popular in London, but air conditioning is one expensive venture. With each London Ferris Wheel pod holding about 25 people, and the ride making one full rotation each 30 minutes -- the duration of the entire ride -- things are a little slow. Whether it's the air conditioning, or a lack of tourist interest, things aren't going so hot for the "London Eye". More than a decade after its opening, the Ferris Wheel has yet to become profitable. Maybe that's why the Orlando version is throwing in all those restaurants and hotels. If the "Orlando Eye" garnered the same annual number of riders as London, about 2 million per year, Orlando would need about four years in order to regain its initial investment.

As it turns out, the "Orlando Eye" isn't new -- in fact it was previously known as the "Great Orlando Wheel," and is actually far behind schedule. That wheel was supposed to begin back in 2008, but something got greatly delayed. The upside: Since the "Great Orlando Wheel" was advertised, it's been gaining -- now slated to be nearly 100 feet, or 20%-percent, taller than its originally-planned height.

Good things come to those who wait. Like good times. And a once-in-a-lifetime view.


International Drive
Orlando, FL
United States
28° 25' 32.628" N, 81° 27' 47.0448" W
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