A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

235-foot Skywheel coming to Newport on the Levee; attraction expected to be open for summer 2017

SkyWheel®, is coming to Newport on the Levee.

The observation wheel will rise more than 235 feet above the Ohio River and will provide panoramic views in the safety and comfort of climate-controlled gondolas. While it is a Ferris wheel, SkyWheel® is certainly not a carnival ride. The SkyWheel® will soar above Newport on the Levee and feature 30 gondolas, including, one VIP gondola.

Each fully accessible glass enclosed gondola will comfortably seat up to six adults and provide 360 degree views of the Northern Kentucky riverfront, the Ohio River, and the Cincinnati skyline.


Passengers will take three to four rotations on a safe and secure flight that will last approximately 10 to 12 minutes. The SkyWheel® will operate on a year-round basis on the plaza level of Newport on the Levee adjacent to the Newport Aquarium.

Spectacular LED lighting displays will illuminate the SkyWheel® at night.

SkyWheel® Newport will be developed and operated by St. Louis-based Koch Development. Koch expects SkyWheel® Newport to draw approximately a half million riders annually.

“A Ferris wheel resonates with the public. It sparks a feeling of nostalgia,” said Koch Development Managing Director Matthew Stack. “People know what it is. They are drawn to it. SkyWheel® is awe inspiring to look at and even better to ride.”

Koch anticipates the investment will be well in excess of $10 million and anticipates that construction will begin following final approval of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which regulates all construction projects along the Ohio River. Subject to securing all approvals necessary, Koch is projecting a grand opening of SkyWheel® Newport in the summer of 2017.



Koch Development Director of Attractions Mandy Kuhlman said the wheel is suitable for all ages.

“This is a ride for families, for kids, for grandparents, for date nights,” Kuhlman said. “Our guests love the SkyWheel® because they get to experience it together with their family and friends.”

Stack said SkyWheel® Newport will become an instant landmark and icon that will offer one of the most unique – if not the most unique – views and experience from which to see Northern Kentucky and Downtown Cincinnati.
“Riding it during the day or at night will provide completely different experiences,” Stack said.

In 2011, Koch Development developed SkyWheel® Myrtle Beach, the first observation wheel of its kind in the United States, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Koch continues to operate SkyWheel® Myrtle Beach – which has become immensely popular with tourists and residents alike. In addition to SkyWheel® Newport, Koch is planning to open SkyWheel® Panama City Beach in Florida in mid-2017.

Koch is working with the operators of Newport on the Levee on design of the project buildings to be constructed at the foot of the SkyWheel®.

At this time Koch is proposing construction of a permanent event venue at the base of the SkyWheel® overlooking the Ohio River that can accommodate birthday parties, corporate events, family reunions, and other events.

“We are very excited to work with Koch Development to bring SkyWheel® to Newport on the Levee,” said Levee General Manager Harold Dull. “The SkyWheel® will be a world-class attraction for the entire region. From more than 235 feet above the river, the sight lines of Northern Kentucky and the Cincinnati skyline will be spectacular.”

Leaders in the City of Newport, who have also worked closely with Koch Development on the project, are energized by another major attraction being constructed on their riverfront.

“The SkyWheel® is going to be iconic,” said Newport City Manager Tom Fromme. “It will be a tremendous attraction that will draw families and visitors to Newport and the Ohio Riverfront. We are anxious to continue working with Koch Development to make this exciting project a reality.”

The SkyWheel® is expected to provide a significant boost to the region’s tourism industry, bringing out-of-town visitors to local hotels, restaurants, retailers, and other attractions.



“The SkyWheel® will be an exciting addition to Newport on the Levee, one of Northern Kentucky’s most successful visitor attractions, offering a fun experience and an incredible vista of both sides of the Ohio River,” said Eric Summe, President and CEO of meetnky/Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It will complement an already wide array of destinations that Northern Kentucky and our neighbor Cincinnati share to make our region an attractive place to come, visit, and enjoy.”

The high visibility and key location of SkyWheel® Newport provides attractive sponsorship possibilities for area corporations and businesses to become part of one of the most sensational and unique attractions ever built in the region.

“Given that the SkyWheel® will be seen by millions of people each year in person, in photography, on television and on social media there is a business opportunity for sponsorship that we are interested in exploring,” Stack said.

In addition to Koch, the project development team currently includes Dutch Wheels, the manufacture of the wheel equipment; Bruce D. Robinson Design Group, the design planner; Thelen Associates, Inc., the geotechnical engineer; and Woolpert, engineer and architect.

Koch Development

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