Great City Attractions is the name of a new company that becomes the world’s leading operator of observation wheels. Formed by a merger between the Great Wheel Corporation (GWC) and World Tourist Attractions (WTA), the new enterprise boasts a portfolio of permanent and semi-permanent rides ranging from 40 to over 100-metres in height.
The company says it plans to open a number of new wheels over the next few years including the potentailly record-breaking Great Beijing Wheel, which at 208-metres would be 43-metres taller than the world’s current tallest Ferris Wheel, the Singapore Flyer. The company also plans, originally drawn up by GWC, for permanent constructions in Orlando and Berlin.
Founded by UK leisure operators Elliot Hall and Jonathan Shipley, World Tourist Attractions’ first ride was a 53-metre tall R60 Ferris Wheel by Ronald Bussink, sited in the English city of Birmingham for a period of four months during the winter of 2003/4. Similar rides followed in a number of European cities including Manchester, York, London, Glasgow, Belfast, Paris, Brussels, Dresden and Seville.
Taking their lead from the London Eye, Bussink’s designers refined what was a once classic carnival ride to provide a minimalist white aesthetic, equipped with air-conditioned gondolas. Transported by container and requiring no foundations, the wheels offer more flexibility that permanent structures and have allowed WTA accommodate wheels on sites and for timescales to suit its partners’ wishes.
Last year, the company also began operation of a permanent ride when it took over the running of the 120-metre Southern Star in Melbourne, Australia, which reopens in 2010 after extended maintenance.
Serving as joint chairmen of Great City Attractions are Elliot Hall (ex-WTA) and Florian Bollen (ex-GWC). Together with Jonathan Shipley, they are also founding members and majority shareholders. Bollen, meanwhile, continues to serve as chairman of Singapore Flyer Pte Ltd, the company that operates the Singapore Flyer. GCA’s non-executive board members include Ronald Bussink, Jon Shipley Snr and Rob Roger. The new company has a value in excess of £300 million ($508m/€357m), which the directors hope to grow to £3 billion within five years. New headquarters are planned in London.
“Great City Attractions is a forward thinking company delivering stylish and uplifting leisure experiences to tens of thousands of visitors every day,” says Elliot Hall. “After two years of negotiations between WTA and GRC we can go to work operating giant observation wheels in all areas of the market. We have a very strong team that has passion and drive for the business that is second to none.”
New wheels ranging in height from 40 to 60-metres have opened during the last 12 months in Brisbane, Perth, Copenhagen, Kühlungsborn (Germany) and Weston-super-Mare and Sheffield (England). Another R60 model was about to shipped at the time of writing.