Newport's proposed SkyWheel is one step closer to construction after the Newport City Commission unanimously approved a ground lease agreement with St. Louis-based project developer Koch Development.
Similar to the temporary SkyStar Ferris wheel across the river, SkyWheel will be a permanent 230-foot-tall observation wheel with 30 climate-controlled gondolas that offer panoramic views of the Ohio River and downtown skyline. At night, LED displays will illuminate the structure.
The attraction will be located on a 13,000-square-foot concrete pedestal to be built on the banks of the Ohio River, connected to Newport on the Levee by a 40-foot-wide plaza extension.
"The SkyWheel is going to be a major tourist attraction for the City of Newport and the entire Greater Cincinnati region," said Newport City Manager Tom Fromme in a press release. "We expect about 400,000 riders a year. And because the gondolas are climate controlled, the SkyWheel can be enjoyed year-round."
The final piece of the puzzle is a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has to approve the development. They are expected to issue the go-ahead this spring and ground-breaking on SkyWheel is expected to begin this summer. Construction of the wheel and accompanying structures should take six to nine months.
Koch Development also operates similar SkyWheel attractions in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Panama City Beach, Florida. The components to build SkyWheel, which will be made in the Netherlands, will be shipped to Newport on barges from the port of New Orleans, up the Mississippi and Ohio rivers.
"It's like a big Erector Set that will be put together once it gets to our riverfront," Fromme said.
"Watching those big pieces coming up the river and erected in Newport will be something to see," said Newport Mayor Jerry Peluso in the same release. "And once it is in place, it's going to draw people from all over the country."