Revised plans for Newport's SkyWheel would move it to a Riverboat Row pier, closer to the river

Construction delayed until end of 2017 -- or later
Posted at 5:00 AM, Apr 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-06 07:08:41-04

NEWPORT, Ky. -- Construction on the planned SkyWheel won't start until later this year at the earliest.

New plans to meet the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' concerns about drilling into the floodwall were agreed upon by the city and developer at the end of March, said Tom Fromme, Newport city manager.

The new plan will no longer compromise the floodwall, said Matthew Stack, managing director of Koch Development in St Louis, instead putting access above and over the levee. The base structure will now be built on Riverboat Row closer to the Ohio River.

Access to the ride will be from a 50-foot-long pier that will be large enough for people attending Newport festivals to be able to find another shelter from sun and rain, Fromme said.

"That's a good thing for the city," he said.

Currently, crowds can find shelter only under the nearby Taylor-Southgate Bridge.

Stack said it would take two to four months to complete the engineering for the new structure. Those plans will then be submitted to the Corps of Engineers. It's unknown how much time the Corps will need to review the new plans or whether they will want more changes.

Both Fromme and Stack said it would be sometime in 2018 before the attraction could open, or longer, depending on the feedback from the Corps.

Fromme emphasized that "everything is moving forward," but the city has no control over the time frame.

"From start to finish, we've probably got two years into it at this point," said Fromme. "These things take a long time."

Both the city and Koch wanted a plan they could both agree on that would meet all the Corps' concerns. The wheel structure did not change in the process.

It was important to consider, Stack said, "whether cars can pass under (the pier), whether fire trucks can get under it, and whether it will look appropriate."

Stack said the base will be engineered to withstand any flooding, and water would never reach the SkyWheel itself.

Original plans for the 235-foot structure (about 21 stories) were submitted to the Corps in January 2016. The SkyWheel will offer 360-degree views of the area, including a peek into the Reds' Great American Ball Park.