Observation wheels seem to be opening up across the nation with the Seattle Great Wheel opening in June 2012, the SkyView Atlanta opening last summer and the soon-to-debut Capital Wheel opening in May.
The Capital Wheel’s prime location at National Harbor in Prince George County’s, Maryland (just 10 minutes south of Washington, D.C.) offers a fresh, eclectic space for meetings and events, while giving groups a bird’s-eye view of the Capital’s best sites. The observation wheel features 42 closed, climate-controlled gondolas that each seat eight people. It is located at the end of a pier overlooking the Potomac River, where guests will catch a ride and be taken up 175 feet into the air. From there, they will be able to spot the White House, U.S. Capitol Building, Arlington Cemetery and the National Mall. At night, the observation wheel will illuminate the entire pier with its 1.6 million LED lights in a spectrum of 16.7 colors.
Open year-round, The Capital Wheel will follow in the footsteps of other popular observation wheels, expecting to boost local and regional economic development by attracting 600,000 to 800,000 visitors annually. The London Eye, for instance, is one of the United Kingdom’s most popular paid tourist attractions, averaging 10,000 visitors daily and about 3.75 million annually.
“We’re planning on attracting 600,000 to 800,000 people, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we got up to 1 million,” says Jon Peterson, principal at Peterson Companies, the developer on the project. “These observation wheels are popping up in different areas across the nation. Seattle’s observation wheel attracted 1 million visitors in the first 12 months, and if they attracted 1 million people, there’s no reason our Capital Wheel shouldn’t.”
The about 5,000 sf of space at the foot of the Capital Wheel will also be available for meeting planners. A Wolfgang Puck restaurant and bar will be situated adjacent to the wheel and can provide catering for groups of up to 400 people as they take turns riding the new attraction.
The Capital Wheel is simply one more addition to a slew of developments that opened in phases at the National Harbor site. The Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center opened in 2008, along with five hotels and the recently opened—as of November 2013—outlet shopping center. In recent months, developers announced that an MGM Resorts casino will also open in 2016.
“[The Capital Wheel] is yet another reason that people will come to National Harbor as opposed to another location, whether downtown or some other city,” says Peterson. “With the addition of the outlet center and an MGM casino, there will be very few locations in the nation that will offer all of this to conventioneers.”