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Louisville’s temporary ‘SkyStar’ observation wheel on riverfront is similar to coming Newport Skywheel

Staff report

A giant observation wheel — the SkyStar — is coming to Lousville’s Waterfront Park for a 5-week stay from March 29-May 6.

The wheel is similar to the Skywheel that will soon be a permanent fixture on Newport’s levee at the riverfront. City Manager Tom Fromme said in a recent city commission meeting that he expected construction could begin this calendar year.

Fromme said it would be located north of the Newport Aquarium and Mitchell’s Fish Market in the Newport Festival Park area.

Conceptualization of the Newport Skywheel

The Newport SkyWheel will stand more than 230-feet tall with 30 climate-controlled gondolas. It will be mounted on a pier out toward the Ohio River.

“The Skywheel is somewhat smaller than the one planned for Newport,” said Jack Moreland of Southbank Partners. “All cities are doing things to have people visit. The wheel or any other avenues that encourages folks to experience the urban core areas of our cities is a good thing.”

Louisville’s Waterfront Development Corporation worked with SkyView Partners of St. Louis which operates a portable observation wheel, currently in Atlanta, to bring it to the Waterfront Park’s Four® Lawn.

“In addition to the local appeal the Waterfront Ferris wheel is sure to have, there are many groups meeting in Louisville in April that will be able to enjoy seeing the city from this fun vantage point as well,” said Karen Williams, president and CEO of the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Some of those include students participating with Skills USA, VEX Robotics, and volleyball, drill and cheering competitions. Spring is a busy season for tourism in Louisville, including the build-up to the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Derby Festival, so this is an excellent time to enhance our unique offerings with an additional attraction.”

The SkyStar Observation Wheel is the culmination of years of planning and specialty design by SkyView Partners and Mondial World of Rides. Utilizing state-of-the-art technology and a specialty erection and dismantling system, the SkyStar Observation Wheel is not only one of America’s tallest traveling wheels, but the most agile observation wheel in the world.

Rendering of Louisville’s Skywheel setting

SkyStar features 36 climate-controlled 6-passenger gondolas that offer passengers impressive aerial views of the river over the top of the Big Four® Bridge, Waterfront Park, and the Louisville skyline. In addition to the breathtaking views during the daylight hours, the Ferris wheel will feature a state-of-the-art LED light show every evening featuring over 1,000,000 colored LED lights. 

SkyStar, Waterfront Park’s newest visiting attraction, will be in operation during Thunder over Louisville and will serve as an anchor for a family-friendly area adjacent to the Big Four® Bridge. “SkyStar will be a new way for fans to experience Thunder on April 21st,” said Mike Berry, Kentucky Derby Festival President & CEO. “The observation wheel will be a welcome part of Ford’s Thunder on the Ground activities this year at Waterfront Park.”  

SkyStar will also be in operation during the April 25th WFPK Waterfront Wednesday, the season opener for the 17th year of a popular concert series.

“This season, WFPK Waterfront Wednesdays will introduce a new kids’ activity area, led by 90.5 WUOL’s Music Education Manager Jecorey Arthur,” said Stacy Owen, WFPK’s Program Director. “The SkyStar Observation Wheel will be a fantastic addition to the family fun we have planned!” 
SkyStar will open on Thursday, March 29 and operate through May 6. Hours of operation will be Monday – Sunday, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.

Ticketing and admission costs are: Adult (Ages 12+) $14.15 + tax. Senior (Ages 65+) $12.74 + tax. Child (Ages 3 -11) $11.32 + tax. Children 2 & Under FREE. Military & Student (with valid ID) $12.74 + tax. Group tickets and special events inquiries via events@skystarwheel.com; advance ticket purchases available at www.skystarwheel.com.

Upon entry, attraction guests will have access to Little Cheesers gourmet food menu and a full bar, including specialty cocktails. Directly outside the attraction, a family-friendly food court/zone will be provided by Festival Cuisine, making for a great family, friends, or date night experience. 

Louisville Waterfront Park is an 85-acre urban park reconnecting downtown Louisville with the Ohio River. The park has transformed an industrial wasteland into an attractive gateway to the city that attracts nearly 2 million visitors each year. For more information about Louisville Waterfront Park, visit www.louisvillewaterfront.com.

Louisville Waterfront Park press release contributed to this report.

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See the NKyTribune’s story about Newport’s Skywheel.

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