Nashville-based developer Barry Lee has proposed the idea for a $1 million private investment that he’d like to see come to fruition in Owensboro. The banjo-shaped Ferris wheel would be Owensboro’s “next big attraction,” he says, and would be a good fit for the grassy space behind the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
However, Lee said the Ferris wheel could be placed anywhere along the riverfront, though, in his opinion, the best place would be on a platform built behind the museum that would be high enough to allow concert-goers to sit underneath it as bands perform concerts in the outdoor amphitheater.
Hall of Fame Executive Director Chris Joslin said the wheel’s placement is far from his biggest concern right now. In order to develop Owensboro into a better destination for tourism, and to continue building relationships with private investors such as Lee, Joslin said the people of Owensboro must begin opening their minds to new ideas.
“I moved here from Nashville four years ago because of a bigger story unfolding around tourism in Owensboro,” he said. “With all the investments going downtown, I’m not that concerned with a banjo-shaped wheel. But how do we as a community form relationships with developers from Nashville, such as Barry? We need to think about that as a community.”
Joslin said he isn’t against the idea of a banjo-shaped Ferris wheel being on the Bluegrass Museum property, but that the biggest concern is how open-minded locals will be to this potential development and future developments that may arise from outside investors.
“It’s important for us to listen and engage with people like Barry Lee and others,” Joslin said. “More are sure to follow.”
Lee told Owensboro Times that the base of the Ferris wheel would be white, so that it stands out against the night sky.
“So that it makes the light show at night more brilliant,” he said.
The height of the attractions is undetermined at this point, but Lee believes the higher the better. If the wheel was 110 feet, it could feature closed gondolas, that could could allow people to enjoy the attraction year-round. At that wheel height, the top of the neck would stand between 180-200 feet and could also potentially serve as a drop tower.
Lee said meetings with members of the community went as expected during his stay in Owensboro, saying he received a lot of feedback during drop-ins he made to a local barbershop, diner, coffee shop and O.Z. Tyler Distillery.
“As with any development, there are going to be negative comments, but I’m pleased with the many positive responses,” he said. “I haven’t reached out to the mayor’s office yet, but I would be interested to know his reaction.”
Joslin said he hears a lot of “grumbling” from local residents regarding raised taxes and a general negative outlook on some of the developments being made throughout the city.
“At the heart of a successful economy, but [taxes] and tourism are improving our quality of life,” he said. “We need to all be sending the same message. We need to attract people to Owensboro in the long term [to be successful].”
According to Joslin, who, like Lee, hasn’t seen any renderings of what the Ferris wheel would like behind the bluegrass museum, it may not be feasible for the Ferris wheel to be placed on the bluegrass museum’s property. But again, that isn’t Joslin’s biggest focus right now.
“I think it’s much bigger than ‘Should we have a Ferris wheel or not?’” he said. “The work put into linking Nashville to Owensboro over the last six to eight years is starting to bear fruit. How do we engage and collaborate with those folks who further solidify our identity as the home of bluegrass music?”