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Behind the Scenes of Navy Pier’s Iconic Centennial Wheel

The Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier is a staple of your Navy Pier visit and a signature attraction in Chicago. In addition to what meets the eye (an eye-catching Wheel!), there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes to keep the Wheel running smoothly. Here are some fun facts you may not know about the Wheel. What will you discover on your next Wheel ride?

Experience it yourself: Book your Centennial Wheel tickets
Centennial Wheel gondolas set against a bright blue sky
  • The Centennial Wheel stands 50 feet taller than its predecessor at nearly 200 feet high.
  • The gondolas are climate controlled and enclosed. The gondolas are temperature controlled and have air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter. The Wheel features special, high-tech safety glass to ensure the best climate inside and to prevent condensation.
  • Each gondola has an entertainment system with a video screen, which play Navy Pier information throughout the ride.
  • The Centennial Wheel weighs 992,080 pounds!
Workers place one of the large bolts in the Centennial Wheel's supports
  • Each gondola weighs 3,400 pounds and is approximately 6 feet wide.
  • The Centennial Wheel is powered by eight motors.
  • The Centennial Wheel contains over 10,000 bolts to connect all components.
  • The Centennial Wheel has 21 spokes to support the 42 gondolas.
  • The six legs of the Wheel are 120’ in length and weigh 36,376 pounds each. The center hub of the Wheel measures 104’ above deck and weighs more than 36,000 pounds.
The digital hub of the wheel glows orange with a jack-o-lantern for Halloween
  • The gondolas are Navy Pier blue, while the Pier’s first wheel was red.
  • Dutch Wheels, based in Vlodrop, Netherlands, is the designer of the new wheel. Dutch Wheels is a global leader in standalone giant wheels. Ferris wheels designed by Dutch Wheels can be found in well-known locations throughout the Americas, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
  • The digital hub on the center of the Wheel features Navy Pier’s logo, as well as other signature images from Chicago sports, charities, and more.
Visitors point out the view from the Centennial Wheel
  • Navy Pier once hosted a speed dating event on the Wheel, and also gave away free wheel rides on Valentine’s Day.
  • The Centennial Wheel was installed in 2016, after the Pier’s first Ferris wheel from 1995.
  • The Wheel uses a start/stop system to load multiple gondolas, which then lets the wheel operator set a number of rotations for the wheel. This system creates a better experience, giving riders time to experience the height and the view.

Pier Park’s Guest Experience team ensures the Wheel is running properly, assists guests with loading and unloading, cleaning the Wheel and more. We could not do it without them!

We encourage you to visit to get your own behind-the-scenes experience on the Wheel. Purchase your tickets in advance today!

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About Navy Pier

More Than You Imagine

Navy Pier is the People’s Pier, Chicago’s lakefront treasure, welcoming all and offering dynamic and eclectic experiences through partnerships and programs that inspire discovery and wonder.

Since its reopening in 1995, more than 180 million guests have come to enjoy the Pier's 50 acres of unparalleled attractions and experiences. In 2021, Navy Pier continues to evolve into an accessible, year-round centerpiece for Chicago’s diverse arts and cultural treasures.

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