Will New Atlantic City Boardwalk Observation Wheel Turn A Profit?

Jessica Welman Updated on March 24, 2017
Steel Pier

It may be called Steel Pier, but the Atlantic City amusement park is going to need some additional support before the planned 250-foot observation wheel can start construction.

The wheel should open later this year. Right now, construction crews are laying the literal groundwork to get the gigantic Ferris wheel rolling.

Atlantic City Boardwalk pier needs reinforced

The proposed wheel is going to weigh 485,000 pounds. With such girth, the Boardwalk needs extensive preparation to support it. Really though, Steel Pier is already well-equipped to handle such a weight.

A recent report by the Press of Atlantic City details the preparation and construction for the wheel project. The publication notes the weight is not the largest (pardon the pun) concern.

The pier currently holds several other rides and attractions, but in the past it was once a theater and, at one point, there were plans to possibly build a multi-story hotel on top of it.

“The original pier was designed for a lot of load…The cylinder piles that hold up the pier are 4½ feet in diameter, and they’re driven into the sea bed 40 or 50 feet. Each one of the piles had a capacity of 600 tons. At the time, they were the largest driven piles on the East Coast,” Steel Pier engineer Todd Heacock told Press of Atlantic City.

What is a concern is the wind. In order to increase the wheel’s stability when facing ocean breezes, the construction team will bring in steel beams and pour concrete to reinforce the wheel to the piles.

Logistics will be an issue too. All of the supplies need to fit through a narrow space between Resorts Casino and the shuttered Taj Mahal Casino.

Polercoaster to go on old Sands Casino site

The observation wheel is not the only high-flying ride coming to Atlantic City. The city continues to prepare for construction of the Polercoaster. The proposed vertical roller coaster will go on the former Sands Casino lot.

The ride is going to be even taller than the wheel, coming in at 350 feet. The latest plans for the property also include:

  • A car-drop ride
  • Rooftop surf club and wave pool
  • Ninja climbing course
  • Laser maze
  • Zipline
  • Dining and retail space

This week the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority approved plans for the Polercoaster as part of the larger project of revitalizing the Martin Luther King Boulevard stretch of the city.

How profitable are observation wheels?

Atlantic City is far from the only city working on adding an observation wheel to the skyline.

The costs of the Steel Pier wheel pale in comparison to the Staten Island project. The New York Wheel, which aims to surpass the High Roller as the tallest observation wheel in the world at over 600 feet, is going to cost at least $600 million.

Meanwhile, the Atlantic City observation wheel is a bargain at just $14 million. The city loaned the amusement park roughly half the cost of the project.

Once the wheel is complete, the other wheel in a gambling mecca is not exactly inspiring much confidence profits will be as sky-high as the ride. Caesars is keeping revenue numbers and attendance for the wheel close to the vest, but what is not available is unimpressive.

Caesars hoped the attraction would draw 11,000 people a day. A year after the wheel opened, Caesars execs acknowledged the numbers were less than half that, but trending slightly upward. Now that the novelty of the new attraction has worn off after three years of operation, numbers appear to have never come close to expectations.

The good news for Steel Pier is, with the low overhead on the project, expectations are much lower and it will be much easier for the observation wheel to start turning a profit.

Image credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
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