HK may join Ferris wheel fad: London Eye chief

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 February, 2007, 12:00am

The city has been toying with the idea of erecting a giant Ferris wheel and may become the home of another London Eye, the operator of the British tourist icon said.

But some detractors believe the benefit of such a project would be limited given the panoramic views already afforded by the city's skyscrapers and The Peak.

David Sharpe, managing director of British Airways London Eye, which operates the observation wheel, said building the 135-metre-tall structure would cost about GBP50 million (HK$766.8 million) today.

'It's not the cheapest structure,' he said.

Interest from investors in the region had been keen over the past few years, he said. He is on a tour of the region, including Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, to explore management contract opportunities for potential observation wheel projects.

British Airways London Eye is not in discussions with anyone, he said.

In 2001, developer Wharf (Holdings) proposed erecting a giant observation wheel at Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui. It was reported that the wheel would stand 75 metres tall, or as high as a 25-storey building. Proposals were also considered for such a wheel at Kai Tak Point, near the end of the former airport runway. This would involve the government reclaiming surrounding seabed.

A government spokesman said the redevelopment of Kai Tak was still in the planning stages.

Ben Au Ka-shing, a Kowloon City District Council member, said an observation wheel at Kai Tak did not need to be tall and would be a welcome addition to the area.

'It would help revitalise Kwun Tong, Tsim Sha Tsui and the surrounding districts,' Mr Au said. 'However, we need to see how the cost of building one is handled.

'If the government has to foot the bill, I'm afraid it might turn into another Disneyland.'

Polytechnic University associate professor of tourism John Ap also questioned whether the wheel would attract many more tourists.

'You have to be careful about this because Beijing and Singapore also have similar projects.' he said.

Singapore will unveil the 178-metre-tall Singapore Flyer over Marina Bay next year and the mainland is also rapidly developing Ferris wheels. Shanghai plans to build the world's tallest, the Shanghai Star, by next year.