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Historic Navy Pier Ferris Wheel moving to resort town of Branson, Missouri

A familiar site that towered over the lakeshore skyline for 20 years will soon open at a new home in southwest Missouri resort town.

Navy Pier’s iconic Ferris wheel, which towered 150 feet tall and accommodated 240 riders in 40 gondolas, will open this summer at the The Track Family Fun Park in Branson, Missouri, the park announced Friday.

“Branson will be a great new location for this amazing Ferris wheel,” Brian Murphy, COO of Navy Pier, said in a statement. “It was a landmark here for many years, and we are happy to know that it will continue to attract thousands of visitors each year to such a family-friendly destination.”

For 20 years, the Ferris wheel–modeled after the first Ferris wheel built for the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition–was one of the biggest draws to Navy Pier, which is the top tourist destination in Illinois.

The new owners are betting that it “will continue to draw both repeat and new visitors to the Branson community” when it opens for this summer.

“We are very excited to be the new home to this iconic Ferris wheel,” Craig Wescott, president and CEO of The Track Family Fun Parks, said in the statement. “Our hope is that adding this unique attraction, which is enjoyed by people of all ages, will enhance our guests’ experience during the time they spend in Branson.”

The company is making a $2.5 million investment in the Ferris wheel as part of its 35th anniversary.

The Ferris wheel, which lit up the lakefront with its 16,000 lights,  carried an estimated 16 million riders since it opened in 1995, according to Navy Pier officials.

It is being replaced by a new $26.5 million state-of-the-art wheel, which will tower 196 feet high with 42 climate-controlled gondolas that can carry up to 414 passengers at a time. They feature individual seating and an entertainment system with interactive video screens.

It will be one of the six tallest Ferris wheels in the world when it opens to the public this summer, according to Navy Pier.

Branson is located on Route 76, just off U.S. 65, about 40 miles south of Springfield, Missouri.