It once towered over 100 feet in the air, proclaiming itself and the city of Chicago as marvels of a modern world.
The original “Ferris Wheel” was designed and constructed by George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Riders were thrilled with a birds-eye view of the city and lake.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of Navy Pier, and to celebrate the occasion, a new, much larger Ferris Wheel was installed. The new wheel towers 200 feet above the pier -- 50 feet higher than the original, making it the largest wheel attraction in the Midwest.
JMS Electric, of Schaumburg Illinois, was the electrical contractor chosen for the project. They are no stranger to working on highpro file and unusual projects, with a resume that includes Chicago landmarks such as the United Center, the Chicago Blackhawks and Chicago Bulls training facilities. They also have a maintenance contract at Navy Pier.
Demolition of the old wheel began in October 2015 and continued through the change of seasons, presenting numerous challenges, including potential safety hazards.
“We were working on the wheel during the winter months on Lake Michigan,” says Nick Santoro, President of JMS Electric. “We needed additional certification for the Local 134 workers so they could work on the booms to reach the heights they needed to access.” The workers on the project received enhanced safety training to ensure they were in compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Santoro and his JMS Electric team met with Dutch Wheel, a global leader in standalone giant wheels, that consulted on the project and fabricated the giant structure components. Based in the Netherlands, Dutch Wheels’ products are featured in well-known tourist locations in the Americas, Europe, Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific. Installing the new Ferris Wheel was truly an international team effort.
“We worked easily with the Dutch on the final designs” recalls Santoro. “There were a lot of good people on site. McHugh Construction served as the local, general contractor.”
JMS Electric worked with the directions and specifications for the unusual endeavor, which included installation of a large receptacle that houses all the electronics, power, back-up power and fiber optic cables that deliver electricity to the wheel.
Visitors who climbed aboard the previous structure rode in cars that were exposed to the elements, not always comfortable, given the extremes of the Midwest seasons. The new wheel is a dramatic departure from earlier models, with 42 It once towered over 100 feet in the air, proclaiming itself and the city of Chicago as marvels of a modern world. The original “Ferris Wheel” was designed and constructed by George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Riders were thrilled with a birds-eye view of the city and lake. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Navy Pier, and to celebrate the occasion, a new, much larger Ferris Wheel was installed. The new wheel towers 200 feet above the New Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier Honors 100-Year Anniversary enclosed cars, each one climate-controlled. JMS was required to provide additional power for a large digital video screen at the center, as well as additional video screens on each of the individual cars.
Another dramatic feature on the new wheel were the 60,000 lights added to the spokes of the structure. They required 1,700 feet of fiber optic cable for illumination programs, communication and controls.
And last but not least, there was the challenge of addressing Chicago electrical codes. JMS had to ensure that Dutch Wheel’s work met with the city’s stringent requirements.
The Navy Pier Ferris Wheel is a unique attraction, literally illuminating the spot where the original once stood. Turning slowly, it continues to marvel visitors from all over the world, truly an international attraction and endeavor.