Waagner-Biro began manufacturing their modernistic take on the classic Ferris wheel in 1972. Hersheypark, in Hershey, Pennsylvania, was the first park to purchase Waagner-Biro’s double wheel, naming their ride Giant Wheel. Hersheypark purchased the ride from Intamin, a several year-old firm that sold rides for a variety of manufacturers, including Waagner-Biro.
To learn more about Hersheypark’s Giant Wheel, click here.
After Giant Wheel, only three other double wheels were sold.
- Giant Wheel – Hersheypark
- Opened on May 20, 1973 and closed October 31, 2004
- Zodiac – Kings Island
- Opened on April 26, 1975 and closed in 1986
- Reopened at Wonderland Sydney in 1989 and closed on April 26, 2004
- Scorpion – Parque de la Ciudad
- Opened on September 21, 1982 and closed in 2003
- Double Wheel – Kuwait Entertainment City
- Opened in 1984 and closed in 1990
The second double wheel was opened at Kings Island on April 26, 1975. It was called Zodiac. The ride continued operating until 1986, when it was closed for several seasons before relocated to Wonderland Sydney in Australia, a sister park of Kings Island (they were both owned by parent company Kings Entertainment Company [KECO]). Zodiac operated at Wonderland Sydney until April 26, 2004.
Scorpion was one of many rides Intamin sold to Interama / Parque de la Ciudad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It had been seven years since Zodiac was installed at Kings Island; it’s believed that Intamin may included the double wheel with the large purchase order because the ride had been in storage and not sold for several years. Scorpion closed in 2003 and was standing but not operating (SBNO) for a decade. When Parque de la Ciudad reopened in 2007, Scorpion remained SBNO.
The final double wheel installed was Double Wheel at Kuwait Entertainment City in 1984. During the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War, the park fell under occupation of the Iraqi military. Several cabins were removed from Double Wheel and sent to Baghdad. When the park reopened after the end of the Iraqi occupation, the ride was removed.
- Sky Whirl – California’s Great America
- Opened on May 20, 1976 and closed in 1997
- Sky Whirl – Six Flags Great America
- Opened on May 29, 1976 and closed in 2000
- Tree Triple Wheel – Seibuen Amusement Park
- Opened in 1985 and closed in 2004
- Hydra – Lotte World
- Opened on July 12, 1989 and closed in 1997
Waagner-Biro produced a custom version of their wheel, which Intamin also sold on their behalf. Instead of being a double wheel, these were triple wheels.And like the double wheel, only four were sold.
The first two sold were made specifically for the Great America parks that opened in 1976. Both were named Sky Whirl, and California’s Great America ride was the first to close, in 1997. Sky Whirl at Six Flags Great America operated through 2000.
Tree Triple Wheel operated at Seibuen Amusement Park, a small park located an hour north and west of Tokyo, Japan. It opened in 1985 and was closed in 2004.
Hydra operated at Lotte World in South Korea. It opened with the opening of Lotte World on July 12, 1989. The ride was closed in 1997, only after 8 seasons of service. This was situated right on the edge of a shoreline, which provided nice views of the surrounding area.
The double and triple wheels manufactured by Waagner-Biro were very popular rides at the park’s which had them. Unfortunately, since so few were produced, the ride was not supported by Waagner-Biro too far into the 1990s. That was at the time Intamin reorganized into being a ride manufacturer rather than just being a ride broker.
These rides did not age well, unfortunately. The arms were fairly susceptible to water, which could seep into the arms damaging the motors, as well as causing rust. Rust was the biggest issue with the double and triple wheels as they aged – rust was difficult damage to repair.
Only three stayed open through 2004, and Giant Wheel was the last of these rides to operate.
Special thanks to Maria Renata França and R.D. Sussmann for providing some background on some of the parks mentioned in this article.