At a press conference Wednesday, Barry Lee, a Nashville-based developer with ties to Owensboro, explained the $1 million banjo-shaped Ferris wheel he would like to build in Owensboro.
“This wheel will be the next big attraction after the Bluegrass Hall of Fame,” he said. “Attractions are the next step for tourism here.”
According to Lee, this would be a privately-funded project. He does not plan to seek financial assistance from the City. The only exception, he said, would be the location and if the best site for the banjo would be on City-owned property.
At this time, the preferred site for the amusement ride would be the grassy area behind the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum, which is where Lee held Wednesday’s press conference. Not only is the location ideal, but Lee said tickets — which he estimates will cost $8 to $15 — could be sold through the Hall of Fame.
The area behind the Hall of Fame is currently dedicated to its outdoor amphitheater. Lee said with the relatively small footprint of the wheel, a platform could be built high enough to allow people to sit underneath and not jeopardize the space for the Hall of Fame.
“But it could be along the riverfront anywhere,” Lee said. “It could be in front of the convention center.”
Currently, the projected height of the Ferris wheel is 87 feet, which would stand 5 feet taller than the Owensboro Convention Center. The neck of the banjo would top out at 150 feet and could eventually be transformed into a drop tower. At this height, Lee said the wheel would hold 40 riders in open gondolas.
Lee said he believes it would be better to seek a height variance with the City of Owensboro for a 110-feet wheel which would allow for closed gondolas that could be used year-round.
It would have a full LED light package and would not be mobile, as previously reported.
Other wheels like this can be found in Pigeon Forge, Panama City Beach, Myrtle Beach and Cincinnati, where Lee said they have seen great success. He is also finalizing the location of a guitar-shaped Ferris wheel in Nashville.
“Nashville and Owensboro need to quickly become sister cities with bluegrass music here and country music there,” he said, adding that the potential flight to Nashville from the Owensboro-Daviess County Airport would only support that concept.
The next step for Lee is to finalize the location. He looks forward to speaking with officials this week about what he calls “an iconic attraction, which would become a postcard for Owensboro.”
He met with the Convention and Visitors Bureau Tuesday and plans to meet with City officials and local developers during the rest of his stay this week.
“We didn’t expect to get this far along,” he said. “This was really just an introduction. We wanted to see if the city was receptive.”