Great Adventure park reinventing the wheel
SIX FLAGS SITE MARKS 35 YEARS IN JACKSON: Park planning to celebrate by refurbishing its iconic Ferris wheel
When the Ferris wheel was brought to Great Adventure by the park's founder, Warner LeRoy, in 1974, it was considered one of the premiere amusement rides in the world.
* Great Adventure refurbishes its Ferris Wheel
Thusly, when Great Adventure opened in Jackson, all roads inside led to the "Big Wheel." It was visible to visitors from all corners of the 1,500-acre site and became one of the customary meeting places for tourists.
Standing 150 feet high and weighing in at 160 tons, it was considered one of the largest rides in the world at the time.
"It was part of Mr. LeRoy's philosophy to have the biggest, the largest, the fastest in order to get attention," said Jim Futrell, the author of four books on amusement parks in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Now, in honor of the ride's 35th anniversary, management has spent the off season refurbishing the "Big Wheel," complete with thousands of new, energy-efficient Light Emitting Diode bulbs. Maintenance crews and electricians are midway through the six-month process of getting the new, improved brighter Ferris wheel ready for the park's April opening.
"It's very common for theme parks to want to preserve their iconic attractions especially if they've become a part of a park's character," said Great Adventure spokeswoman Angel Aristone. "And the Big Wheel is definitely part of our property's character."
Beginning in the late 1980s, Ferris wheels began to get bigger and bigger. The 212-foot Texas Star was built in Dallas during that decade to eclipse the size of the Big Wheel.
In 1999, the 443-foot London Eye was completed. Three years ago, the Singapore Flyer was finished, dwarfing all other Ferris wheels worldwide by measuring in at 525-feet high.
But instead of a bigger and faster ride, Great Adventure's park management went the cleaner and greener route to attract attention.
Futrell said the conversion to eco-friendly lights started during the past decade. He added that he feels the trend will continue for a variety of reasons.
"It's become a hot thing in Ferris wheels," said Futrell, who has been the historian for the National Amusement Park Historical Association since 1984.
"Not only are the LED lights more cost efficient, but you can do so much more with them," said Futrell. "The giant wheel at Morey's Pier (Wildwood) went to the new lights a few years ago and it looks spectacular."
Management expects Great Adventure's light show to be equally as creative.
The new visuals will include multicolored lights arranged in a floral pattern. Crews will be applying more than 100 gallons of bright paint to the ride as well.
"It is important to restore (Big Wheel) to its original, historic beauty," said Mark Kane, president of Six Flags Great Adventure park. "While at the same time, we are improving its impact on the environment."
Park officials estimate the new energy efficient lights will reduce carbon emissions by about 8.5 million pounds.
The Big Wheel, along with the sky ride, log flume, and the flying wave, are the original four major rides still active at the park.
Keith Ruscitti: (732) 557-5748 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Edited by Adam, 05 February 2009 - 01:37 PM.
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