Ferris wheel prepares for final spin

Updated: 2015-04-20 10:05

By Xu Jingxi(China Daily)

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Ferris wheel prepares for final spin

The Ferris wheel at Beijing Shijingshan Amusement Park will close at the end of the month after 29 years of service. The park plans to build a bigger one. [JIANG DONG/CHINA DAILY]

After nearly 29 years and 9 million riders, the capital's sole Ferris wheel will retire on April 30, and will be later replaced by a bigger and more modern one, Beijing Shijingshan Amusement Park announced on Sunday.

The 50-meter-diameter wheel with 36 colorful cabins cuts a conspicuous figure in he city, but its flaking paint, rusted pillars and small, cobweblike cracks in the cabin windows show its age.

Still, long lines of people wait below the wheel for a ride that would give them a bird's-eye view of one of the country's oldest amusement parks.

On hearing that the Ferris wheel would close, Zhao Yiyao, 27, who lives near the park, went for a last ride with her mother and daughter on Sunday.

"It's amazing that I could see a different view every time I rose to the top. It used to be a desolate landscape around the park, but now it's surrounded by modern high-rises and overpasses," Zhao said.

"Besides carrying many happy memories of my family, the Ferris wheel has also witnessed the city's development in the past 29 years. It's sad to let it go."

It's being retired on safety grounds, said Li Weidong, assistant park manager.

"It is so old that no maintenance company will extend the warranty for it."

Large amusement park rides must undergo annual checkups after eight years of service, and an examiner must agree to extend a warranty, under the special equipment safety law that took effect Jan 1, 2014.

The Shijingshan Amusement Park Ferris wheel has been the only one in the capital since Beijing Amusement Park closed in 2010.

As a Beijing landmark, and the first wheel in the city, it has appeared in many movies and has been the scene of many real-life love stories. Last year, 77 couples were invited to the Ferris wheel to celebrate Qixi, China's Valentine's Day.

"Like a rollercoaster and merry-go-round, a Ferris wheel is an indispensable part of an amusement park. We plan to replace it with a bigger one with advanced features, like air-conditioned cabins where people can drink tea and coffee. But we are still waiting for the Shijingshan district government to approve," said Wu Hailong, the State-owned park's general manager.

Shijingshan Amusement Park has been introducing new rides since it opened on September 28, 1986, but to survive the fierce competition from privately owned parks, it has to do more than just update equipment, Wu said.

"More important is to update the mindset of the management and service," Wu said.

"We have to settle on a theme for the amusement park and focus on serving residents instead of blindly chasing after tourists with fancy equipment."