Ferris wheel construction begins at Navy Pier

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Navy Pier is closed Tuesday and Wednesday as crews construct its new Ferris wheel. (WLS)

Navy Pier is closed Tuesday and Wednesday for the construction of Chicago's new Ferris wheel. Crews worked in bitter cold Tuesday, putting up three of the six columns that will anchor the new attraction.

The World's Columbian Exposition exhibit at the Chicago History Museum showcases the beginning of Chicagoans' love affair with the Ferris wheel all the way back in the 19th century.

"Well, the first Ferris wheel was developed for the World's Columbia Exposition in 1893, here in Chicago. Just a remarkable feat; no one had ever built anything moving mechanical of this nature, this large before," says John Russick, Vice President for interpretation and education at the museum.

The original Ferris wheel was created by Pittsburgh-based engineer George Ferris, Jr. His wheel was 264 feet tall and could hold more than 2,100 people at a time.

"Chicago sort of set the standard for what a world class Ferris wheel would be like and for many years that Ferris wheel was moved and reinstalled in other places because it was such a marvel," Russick says.

The World's Fair attraction was the inspiration behind the Ferris wheel that went up at Navy Pier about a century later. That wheel was dismantled in October 2015 after 20 years and 16.9 million rides.

The new Ferris wheel will be 196 feet tall, 50 feet taller than the old one.

"So today and tomorrow we will be doing the six support columns and ultimately placing the center Hub 195 feet in the air," says Brian Murphy, Navy Pier Chief Operating Officer.

The Ferris wheel is expected to be up and running Memorial Day weekend. Tamekia Baker will be in line for the ride.

"The last time I rode the Ferris wheel was two summers ago and it was very exciting. You get to see an excellent view of the whole city and I just basically I love it," Baker says.

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