A new Italian-built Ferris wheel expected to open in May at Buffalo RiverWorks promises "a wow factor" that will draw visitors to the entertainment and sports complex.
The 90-foot-tall red, white and blue attraction will be built on top of a 15-foot elevated platform near the Labatt Blue-painted silos on a 1.8-acre site that includes the ruins of a silo.
"We are hoping this will be a big draw this summer," said William Casale, general manager of RiverWorks. "We think it has such a wow factor and can become a landmark maybe similar to the Navy Pier and Coney Island."
The view from the Ferris wheel will be eye-popping, he said.
"We strategically placed the sightlines so you can see the cityscapes and the front horizon, and then the Lake Erie sunsets from the back horizon," he said.
"Now, more than ever, it's important that we hit the ball out of the park this summer because of the lack of business over the last 12 months," he said.
RiverWorks, one of the Pearl Street family of properties, will add an ax-throwing option in
Three children's amusement park rides – a choo-choo train, a free fall drop ride and a spin adventure ride – will also be installed.
The company, headed by general partner Earl Ketry, unsuccessfully tried to buy several rides from Fantasy Island before the Grand Island amusement park went bankrupt and announced it was closing in 2020.
The stock Ferris wheel from the Italian manufacturer will have custom features and copper cars enclosed with glass, Casale said.
He declined to say how much the amusement ride cost or how expensive it will be to install.
The Ferris wheel was going to be installed on the wharf, until engineers pointed out technical complications. The installation is still a complex endeavor, Casale said, with over 1 million pounds of concrete required to be poured on the site before the Ferris wheel can be installed.
A coastal assessment form, required by the city due to the planned Ferris wheel's proximity to the Buffalo River, will be filed Monday with the city's Planning Board. The Zoning Board is scheduled to consider the project on March 17.
A second sports and entertainment complex is in the works, not far from Buffalo RiverWorks on Ganson Street. An investment and development group led by Buffalo RiverWorks co-founder Doug Swift has acquired another Ganson Street property, where they plan to create a second mixed-use complex centered around sports and entertainment on seven acres along the Buffalo River. The new
Casale said he hopes to get a permit soon afterward because the timetable for a May opening is tight. Foundation work will last approximately six weeks, Casale said. It will take about three weeks to install the Ferris wheel.
"The second we have the permit in hand, we have a contractor ready to begin putting in the foundation and an installer ready to go," he said.
The amusement ride is currently in shipping containers that are expected to leave Italy and begin crossing the ocean early in the week.
Rides will cost between $5 and $15, "depending on the circumstance or event that we are doing," Casale said.
Another amusement ride – a carousel – is also expected to open in May at Canalside.
Buffalo RiverWorks' other summer offerings, if allowed by Covid-19 guidelines, include a zip line, rope course, rock climbing wall, escape room and axe-throwing facility. There will also be live music, a beer garden and a hot dog cart.
Mark Sommer covers preservation, development, the waterfront, culture and more. He's also a former arts editor at The News.