We're minutes from the expected ribbon-cutting for downtown's newest tourist attraction, and Atlantans should take heart in knowing that while our big shiny wheel is puny next to London's, we've beat the hell out of Chicago. At noon, Mayor Kasim Reed is expected to welcome the first public riders aboard SkyView Atlanta, which has been strutting its lightshow capabilities at night like a humongous Christmas-tree topper. Perhaps the debut would be greeted with universal applause if Atlantans weren't teased with a proposed replica of the London Eye two years ago; that $250 million project would have soared to 450 feet, more than doubling the height of the 20-story SkyView. But at least we're a fourth taller than the famed Ferris wheel at Chicago's Navy Pier, which clocks in at a squat 150 feet.
The amusement, it must be said, is no state-fair attraction: It features 42 enclosed, climate-controlled gondolas that fit six people each. Soggy weather and a surprise subterranean Georgia Power Co. duct bank delayed the wheel's anticipated pre-Fourth of July opening. But now that you can ride, here's what you'll need to know:
· One "flight" is equal to four revolutions, lasting about 15 minutes.
· On Friday and Saturday nights, it's open until 11 p.m., perfect for the pre-clubbing crowd.
· What's a VIP flight exactly? First, you get to skip the line (baller!), then you take a special double-flight in a pimped-out VIP gondola with leather seats and a glass floor. The best part, though, is the SkyView Atlanta VIP lanyard! (VIP and group pricing have yet to be announced).
· Other tickets cost: $13.50 (adults); $12.15 (seniors and military); and $8.50 (children).
· SkyView parking is two blocks away and costs $5.
· The attraction has created about 50 local jobs so far, which are year-round and pay between $9 and $13.
· No taxpayer funds were expended for SkyView, and it sits on private property that was, until a few weeks ago, just another surface parking lot.
· Downtown Ferris Wheel night debut [AJC]
· Is Proposed 'SkyView' Ferris Wheel Setting Bar Too Low? [Curbed Atlanta]
· The full SkyView 411 [SkyView Atlanta]