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Newport Board of Commissioners authorize ground lease agreement for Newport SkyWheel project

By Don Owen
NKyTribune reporter

The Newport Board of Commissioners authorized City Manager Thomas Fromme to execute a ground lease agreement for the Newport SkyWheel at Monday night’s meeting.

The Newport SkyWheel will stand more than 230-feet tall with 30 climate-controlled gondolas. It will be mounted on a pier extending out toward the Ohio River and figures to be a welcome addition to Newport for many reasons.

“It is going to draw a lot of attention to Newport, and not just local but national attention,” Newport Mayor Jerry Peluso said. “It will help stabilize the businesses around that area, and it will also attract more businesses in the future.

A conceptualization of the Newport SkyWheel. (Courtesy of Koch Development)

“It’s one of the projects we worked on for years, and all that hard work and effort is slowly paying off. It’s been three years in the making, and it’s definitely going to happen.”

When the SkyWheel opens for business, an estimated 400,000 riders per year will visit the riverfront attraction, which will be located north of the Newport Aquarium and the site that once housed Mitchell’s Fish Market. Market studies determined the estimated yearly riders for the SkyWheel.

“The residual benefits of the SkyWheel will be enormous for Newport,” Peluso said. “This is great news for our city and Riverboat Row. It’s been in the works since 2016 and now it’s finally a reality.”

The SkyWheel will be a year-round attraction because of the climate-controlled gondolas and also provide family-friendly ticket prices. The ground-breaking is expected to happen this summer. After construction begins, the expected timeline for completion is six to nine months.

“One of the challenges of being in government is things move much slower than people would hope,” Commissioner Tom Guidugli said of the past three years in making the project a reality. “This is no different than the process that it takes for any development. The concept to the funding to the execution often takes longer than anticipated.”

The Newport SkyWheel will be similar to the SkyWheel in Myrtle Beach, S.C., but Newport’s will be taller. The SkyWheel is actually being built in the Netherlands and will be shipped by boat to Newport when completed.

“It’s being built in (the Netherlands), and will be put together like an erector set, so it shouldn’t take too long,” Peluso said. “The SkyWheel will be a major attraction and a lot of people are very excited about this development for Newport and the entire region.”

In other items Monday night:

• Frank T. Peluso Jr. was promoted to the position of Captain in the Fire/EMS department.

• The Board authorized Fromme to issue purchase orders for six 2019 Dodge Charger Police Pursuit AWD vehicles.

The Newport Board of Commissioners will convene in a caucus meeting on May 6 at 7 p.m. The next regular meeting is scheduled for May 20.

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