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Golden Gate Park Observation Wheel Seeks Extension to 2025

Scheduled to depart March 2021, a proposal to extend it by 4 more years is in the works
By - posted 1/28/2021 No Comment

The San Francisco Recreation Department announced today that it will seek to extend the 150-foot SkyStar Observation Wheel’s stay in Golden Gate Park to March 1, 2025 due to the impacts of COVID-19.

The SkyStar Wheel, brought to San Francisco last year as the intended centerpiece for Golden Gate Park’s 150th Anniversary, has been largely closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. The wheel was originally scheduled to leave the park’s Music Concourse in March 2021. Extending its residence would allow time to fulfill public expectations and provide economic stimulus as San Francisco recovers from the global pandemic.

The proposal still has several steps before it could be approved. The proposal will be first heard Feb. 4 at San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission’s Operations Committee, then sent to the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) for review. If approved by the HPC, the matter will go before the full Rec and Park Commission for authorization.

The Wheel was slated to open April 4, 2020 as part of a parkwide anniversary celebration. However, the pandemic had other plans—San Francisco issued its shelter in place order March 17, 2020 and halted construction on the Wheel.

After 200 days of standing idle, the Wheel finally opened Oct. 21, 2020 at 25 percent capacity. It operated for 39 days, then closed Nov. 29 when San Francisco entered the purple tier. The Wheel, which was expected to accommodate half a million riders in a year, has only served 65,693 to date.

Extending the permit will also allow the wheel’s operator, Skyview Partners, to fulfill and extend its commitment to providing 500 tickets each month to underserved communities in San Francisco. The extension, if passed, would allow another 16,000 free tickets to go to deserving families.

During its brief operation, the Observation Wheel attracted new visitors to the park, museums and local merchants. The lure of safe, outdoor recreation brought foot traffic to the Music Concourse, making the park safer at night.

The Wheel evokes Golden Gate Park’s past, when the 120-foot tall “Firth Wheel” dazzled visitors to the California Midwinter Fair of 1894. Today’s state-of-the-art Observation Wheel features 36 enclosed temperature-controlled gondolas, boasting unparalleled views from downtown San Francisco to the Pacific Ocean. Colorful LED lights illuminate the towering Observation Wheel nightly.

Keeping the Wheel in San Francisco means supporting economic recovery. It helps the park’s cultural institutions and merchants in surrounding neighborhoods. It’s a unique experience that will help draw tourists back to San Francisco when health officials deem it safe again,” said ,” said Rodney Fong, a co-chair of the Golden Gate Park 150th Honorary Committee and CEO of the SF Chamber of Commerce.

A portion of revenue from the Wheel would go toward transportation access to Golden Gate Park and cultural performances at Rec and Park venues that celebrate San Francisco’s diversity and support the arts community.

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