STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — After plans for the 630-foot high New York Wheel were scrapped in favor of a smaller tourist attraction, the largest observation wheel in the world will open in Dubai in October.
At 850 feet high, the United Arab Emirates’ Ain Dubai — scheduled to open Oct. 21 — is touted as being almost twice the height of the London Eye, which is 443 feet high. Located on Bluewaters Island, the Dubai wheel will be equipped to carry 1,750 passengers at a time.
And this towering tourist attraction was built for a price tag of $270 million, according to the travel website musement.com. That’s a significantly lower cost than the nearly $1 billion N.Y. Wheel investors sought to build its failed 630-foot-high tourist attraction on the St. George waterfront.
The initial N.Y. Wheel reached its demise on Oct. 23, 2018, when its principals announced they would not follow through with the project, which saw its cost snowball from an original estimate of $250 million to close to $1 billion.
And each spin of the Dubai wheel stands to gross more than $61,000, which means the owners of Ain Dubai could make their money back relatively quickly.
While construction of the Ain Dubai started in 2015 and appears to have been delayed mostly due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the initial N.Y. Wheel construction was delayed by a series of starts and stops that can be chalked up to lawsuits and disputes between the Wheel owners/investors and the contractors.
Had the privately-funded N.Y. Wheel been built on time — initial projections were for it to be completed in 2015 — at 630-feet high, it would have been the tallest of its kind until the Ain Dubai came to fruition.
SMALLER N.Y. WHEEL
CanAm Enterprises, which is a sponsor of EB-5 regional center projects, is planning to build a smaller version of the N.Y. Wheel — about 420 feet high — on the St. George waterfront. CanAm Enterprises told the Advance/SILive.com earlier this year that project will likely happen by early 2025.
Before the initial N.Y. Wheel project was abandoned by its major investors, about $200 million was invested to build infrastructure on the site, including the Wheel’s giant pedestals and a largely-complete terminal building and parking garage.
The EB-5 program allows foreign investors to be connected to a project in exchange for help facilitating their green cards. While CanAm Enterprises has been involved with the Wheel project since its inception, it has been working since 2019 with consultants and the state and city — including the city Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), which oversees the city-owned land on which the project would sit — to upstart the smaller Wheel.
Here’s how the 630-foot N.Y. Wheel would have stacked up against the Ain Dubai if the Staten Island attraction had been built:
Cabins: Ain Dubai has 48 air-conditioned passenger cabins; N.Y. Wheel would have had 36 passenger capsules. Air-conditioning was never mentioned as a feature on the N.Y. Wheel.
Length of Ride: Both the Ain Dubai and initial N.Y. Wheel touted a 38-minute journey.
Number of Riders: While the Ain Dubai will carry 1,750 passengers at a time, the 630-foot N.Y. Wheel would have had a total maximum capacity of 1,440 people per ride.
Cost: The per-passenger price to ride the Ain Dubai is $35. The cost to ride the N.Y. Wheel would have been the same.
Views: While N.Y. Wheel riders — even of the smaller wheel — will get panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline, Ain Dubai passengers will receive glimpses of famous landmarks, such as Burj Al Arab, Palm Jumeirah and the Burj Khalifa.