Text size: increase text sizedecrease text size

Developer to roll out plans for Great Orlando Wheel attraction

The Great Orlando Wheel: It will weigh 4,200 tons, tower 400 feet over Orlando's main tourist district, and cost an estimated $200 million. Developers of Orlando's newest proposed tourist attraction are scheduled to detail their plans for the giant observation wheel this afternoon in an International Drive hotel. Here's a sneak peek of what to expect:


360-degree view

Observation wheels are next-generation Ferris wheels. Riders travel in large, glass capsules attached to the wheel's rim, which creates a "top of the world" feel. The Orlando wheel will travel nine inches a second, slow enough that riders will be able to get on and off without stopping the wheel's rotation.


International influence

The Great Orlando Wheel was inspired by the London Eye, which opened in March 2000. Great Wheel Corp., the Singapore-based company behind the local project, already operates the Singapore Flyer and is planning similar attractions in Beijing and Berlin.


Tourism hub

The company's chairman, Florian Bollen, describes the wheel as a hub for local tourism promotion. Once visitors get a panoramic view of the area, they can head into the wheel's terminal building and get information about surrounding attractions. "The way we see it is really a window into the city," Bollen said. "It's a perfect first attraction to go to."


960 riders

With 24 capsules each capable of holding as many as 40 people, the wheel is a high-occupancy attraction. A 38-by-16-foot capsule can accommodate a wedding, a corporate gathering or other event. "It's really a venue in the sky, which is much more than just a viewing platform," Bollen said.


Estimated attendance: 2.7M

In choosing Orlando as the site of the company's first observation wheel in North America, Great Wheel Corp. hopes to tap both the local and tourist markets. Central Florida's flat landscape is considered a plus, offering good views in all directions and ensuring the wheel itself will be visible for miles around.


Local employment

About 100 people will work directly with the wheel. The 80,848-square-foot terminal will also hold shops and restaurants. Great Wheel Corp. has a policy of seeking local building partners; companies participating in this project include Orlando-based Morris Architects Entertainment Studio and BE&K Building Group Inc., which has an office in Maitland.


Icon potential

With its size and visibility, the wheel has the potential to become a prominent fixture on the Central Florida skyline. "I think it's really another jewel in Orlando's crown of being the No. 1 tourist destination in the world," Orange County Mayor Richard Crotty said. "It's iconic. You can see it from miles away." Bollen said engineers have taken into account the fact the structure will have to face strong winds in hurricane-prone Florida.


Wanna ride?

One round on the wheel will take 30 minutes and offer views of as far as 25 miles. It's scheduled to open in mid- to late 2010, Bollen said, and the company aims to price the attraction as a little more costly than a movie ticket, or in the $15-to-$20 range.


Sara K. Clarke can be reached at skclarke@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5664.
A related photo ran on page C1.


Related topic galleries: International Drive, Tourism and Leisure, Tour Operations Industry, Maitland

Check our Day in Pictures photo gallery - updated all day. Click here.

We encourage conversation about our stories and hope you will share your thoughts. We do have some rules of the road: no comments that are obscene, sexual in nature, racist or otherwise inappropriate. If you post such comments, we will remove them.

-- Orlando Sentinel

Note: Not all stories have active discussions. Click here to view all discussions
orlandosentinel.com neighborhoods
Want to be a voice for your community? Become an OrlandoSentinel.com Neighborhood Blogger! Find out how here.
Visit a neighborhood blog:
Dispatches from the neighborhood blogs: