Victoria Foster, a 54-year-old from Fresno, California, conquered her fear of heights as one of the first passengers of the Centennial Wheel, a new Ferris wheel that opened to the public Friday at Navy Pier.
Mike Botwin, 58, said he was surprised when Foster decided she wanted to ride the nearly 200-feet-tall Centennial Wheel. During their honeymoon in Las Vegas, Botwin tried to get Foster to visit the top of the Paris Hotel’s Eiffel Tower, he said. But as soon as she got to the top of that 541-foot replica, she immediately turned around and escaped.
“Today I really did overcome my fear of heights. It was wonderful and we had a great time. I tested myself against [the Centennial Wheel], and I did good,” Foster said.
Hundreds of people visited Navy Pier’s newest attraction on Friday. The Centennial Wheel is 50 feet taller than the pier’s previous Ferris wheel, which stood for 20 years and has a new home in Branson, Missouri.
Andi Mckenna, 42, visited Navy Pier with her 13-year-old son, Will, to experience the new wheel on his day off from school.
Will said he rode the previous wheel a few times but likes the new one better because it has a smoother and longer ride. A ticket to the Centennial Wheel gets you three rotations lasting a total of about 15 minutes; a ride on the former wheel was one rotation lasting seven minutes.
“Everybody in our car was super excited when we went around the third time,” Andi McKenna said. “It’s bigger and a lot smoother. The ride is so quiet and the scenery is great.”
“It’s definitely an improvement from the last one,” Will Mckenna said.
There was a glitch later on opening day, when a power outage at 8 p.m. stranded about 100 riders on the wheel for about half an hour.
Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper, who took the first ride on the new wheel, reported that it features 42 fully enclosed and temperature-controlled gondolas, each with more comfortable seating and video screens with information about the pier.
A ride on the Centennial Wheel costs $15 for adults and $12 for children ages 3-11 as well as for military personnel.