The Worthing Wheel has taken its first passengers ahead of its official opening tomorrow.
Worthing Borough councillors and Elaine Hammond and James Butler from the Worthing Herald were allowed a sneak-peak of the views from the 35-metre-tall attraction, which will be opening to members of the public at dinner time tomorrow and running until April 18.
Journeys take approximately six minutes, with three cycles of the wheel revealing views of the sea, the town and the Downs which stretch ten miles into the distance. A standard ticket costs £5, with concessions for children and OAPs.
Evan De-Koning from Manchester is the general manager of the wheel, which is run by the The Giant Wheel Company, a company his father owns. The company’s three wheels have graced a variety of events, including Formula One at the Silverstone Circuit, Cowes Week on the Isle of Wight and Leeds Festival.
He said Steyne Gardens was ‘a great location’ as it was so central in the town as well as having seafront views. The 24-year-old said: “The views are brilliant. Come and try to find your house and see the beach from an angle you’ve never seen before.”
The attraction runs on the electricity needed to power 30 electric kettles during the day, with LED lights in each gondola - known as a car - to save energy and a modern electrically-powered Dutch motor which creates almost no noise pollution. It has 24 cars, including one which has a ramp to allow on passengers in wheelchairs. In the evening, it has spotlights similar to those used on football pitches to illuminate the wheel. The brightness can be turned up or down if required.
A 50-tonne, 105-foot crane was used to erect the attraction over three days, and will be used to take it down in April, a process taking two days. Kevin Jenkins, executive member for regeneration at Worthing Borough Council, was among the first to try the attraction and said he would be bringing his family along in the Easter holidays.
Speaking ahead of the ride, the councillor said it would ‘provide an ideal attraction for families in the town and for parents and children to visit Worthing and see the wonderful seafront views’. He said: “If you look at the response so far on social media, people are galvanized and delighted by the idea, and everybody’s talking about it.
“We realise with any new attraction it may bring associated issues, whether that is increased traffic or footfall, but rather than being pessimistic about it we should see this as an opportunity for the town. We need greater business for our restaurants, bar and cafés and it will make people come to Worthing and see what we have to offer.”
The council approached the company about getting the wheel to Worthing last year, and earlier this year they confirmed the Easter period. Mr Jenkins said the wheel’s residency could not be extended further as it is booked around the country, but he ‘would be very interested to monitor the interest and uptake’ the wheel has to ‘plan similar-type future events’.
He said ‘in an ideal world’ the attraction would have been on the seafront, but due to winter high tides and the size of the wheel it would not have been secure.
To hotels facing the wheel which complained it could affect their business, Mr Jenkins encouraged them to use the wheel as an ‘incentive to promote their own businesses’, offering afternoon teas or meals in conjunction with a trip on the wheel.
Executive member for the environment, councillor Diane Guest, said there were no environmental issues caused by the wheel because matting was laid down when the wheel was installed to preserve the green space of Steyne Gardens, was not emitting any fumes. The company has paid for the electricity it is using with no council funding, the councillor said.