The race to claim the world's biggest Ferris wheel just took a dramatic turn, with New York City officials giving the go-ahead to a planned 625-foot ride as Las Vegas moved closer to completing its massive, spinning specimen.
Just as Las Vegas' replicas of the New York City skyline and the Eiffel Tower are dwarfed by the real things, though, so too will be its High Roller Ferris wheel, according to developers of the New York ride.
Las Vegas' High Roller, which is expected to open early next year, will be 550 feet high and be able to carry 1,120 people at a time. The New York Wheel, envisioned for the waterfront in the borough of Staten Island, will be 625 feet high and have a 1,440-person capacity.
New York's planning commission Wednesday approved the shopping and hotel complex that will include the Ferris wheel. When Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and other city officials announced the project months ago, they said it would help bring tourism to Staten Island, the "forgotten borough" of New York City, so-called for its lack of subways and relative isolation from the rest of the city.
"The New York Wheel will be an attraction unlike any other in New York City – even unlike any other on the planet," Bloomberg said at the time. The borough president, James Molinaro, called it a "game changer" for Staten Island.
If the City Council gives the development plan the go-ahead next month, the first riders should be able to take a spin in May 2016. Construction is due to begin in early 2014, about the same time Las Vegas' High Roller is expected to open for business.
The title of the world's biggest Ferris wheel has changed rapidly over the years. The Singapore Flyer grabbed the title in 2008, just two years after the Star of Nanchang in China claimed it with a 525-foot Ferris wheel. The London Eye laid claim to the title from 1999 until 2006.