Melbourne to get second ferris wheel years after Docklands ‘Star’ last spun

<span>The Melbourne Star in Docklands has sat idle since 2021, but the operators of a new ferris wheel in South Wharf, to run for six months, are confident their attraction won’t meet the same fate.</span><span>Photograph: James Ross/AAP</span>
The Melbourne Star in Docklands has sat idle since 2021, but the operators of a new ferris wheel in South Wharf, to run for six months, are confident their attraction won’t meet the same fate.Photograph: James Ross/AAP

Years after the Melbourne Star last turned, a second ferris wheel for the city is set to open mere kilometres away, by operators confident their $5m attraction won’t suffer the same ill-fate.

With the Docklands ferris wheel still sitting idle, Skyline Attractions on Friday announced it had been setting up its own version in Polly Woodside Park, outside the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre in South Wharf, where it will stand for six months.

Skyline Attractions’ business manager, Jane Jones, said the company was looking forward to the ferris wheel joining the list of attractions in Melbourne’s CBD when it opened next week.

“It was something that we wanted to do for a long time,” Jones said. “Melbourne’s a great city and adding our wheel into that mix of everything to do here was all just positive for us.”

She said the company was “absolutely not” turned off by the experience of the Melbourne Star, which remains standing just 3km away in Docklands, after closing more than two years ago.

“We’ve got full confidence in our wheels. We’ve had two of them going up and around all over Australia for seven years,” Jones said.

Initially called the Southern Star Observation Wheel, the Melbourne Star first opened in late 2008 but only operated for 40 days before closing, when a contract worker inadvertently discovered cracks in the steel up to three metres long.

The fault was at first attributed to a heatwave, but later turned out be a structural issue. Much of the 40-storey-high, 1,500-tonne structure was sold for scrap and the wheel was redesigned and rebuilt from scratch.

In 2011, during reconstruction works, the wheel broke free from its restraints, began rolling in strong winds and injured a worker. A year later, a spokesperson for the wheel said it could reopen as early as January 2013 if Melbourne had “no wind, no rain for the next four months”.

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With its new name, the Melbourne Star eventually reopened in December 2013 – but closed for good in 2021 when its operators went into liquidation, blaming “the global Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions and sustained shutdowns, adding to pre-existing challenges of operating amid increased high-rise development and changes in the Docklands area”.

Jones said while Skyline Attractions’ wheel was on a much smaller scale than the Melbourne Star – standing at 35 metres compared to 120 metres – it would be able to handle “rain, hail or shine”.

“This is a brand new wheel, which is fully enclosed for sites like Melbourne … where the climate during winter isn’t nice, warm and balmy,” she said.

Paul Guerra, the head of the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who earlier this year led the call to reopen the Melbourne Star in an effort to revive the Docklands area, welcomed the new ferris wheel.

“Any new attraction that brings tourists, families and thrill-seekers into Melbourne’s CBD is worth celebrating,” he said.

“The wheel, in that ideal position on the banks of the Yarra, is guaranteed to offer incredible views of our city and river and will be an exciting addition for our skyline.

“It will of course put further pressure on the viability of the existing wheel at Docklands as it’s unlikely both can survive.”