Six Flags Great Adventure celebrates 35 years with refurbishment of Big Wheel

Posted Friday, February 6, 2009 9:24 AM | Contributed by Jeff

When the Ferris wheel was brought to Great Adventure by the park's founder, Warner LeRoy, in 1974, it was considered one of the premiere amusement rides in the world. Thusly, when Great Adventure opened in Jackson, all roads inside led to the "Big Wheel." It was visible to visitors from all corners of the 1,500-acre site and became one of the customary meeting places for tourists.

Read more from Asbury Park Press.

Friday, February 6, 2009 2:05 PM

This ride is the second Schwarztkopf Giant Wheel in the US, ordered right after importer Mickey Hughes took LeRoy up to Cedar Point to view their newly installed one in 1972. There was a two year lead time with the spectaculars, and Great Adventure was in the final planning stages.

Friday, February 6, 2009 2:14 PM
HeyIsntThatRob?'s avatar

From the article:

"Now, in honor of the ride's 35th anniversary, management has spent theoff season refurbishing the "Big Wheel," complete with thousands ofnew, energy-efficient Light Emitting Diode bulbs."

Other parks should be doing this, not solely for energy efficiency, but for the fact that LED's last a long time and look pretty. I hope locals who post to this site post night shots of this after the refurbishment.

~Rob Willi

Friday, February 6, 2009 3:19 PM
Jeff's avatar

Yeah, LED's are low-maintenance and bright, which to me is the incentive to change even more than power requirements.

So this is a cousin to Giant Wheel, eh? The cages on the tubs sure are strange.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Music: The Modern Gen-X - Video

Friday, February 6, 2009 4:01 PM

They didn't come that way. Somebody here can probably confirm this, but I don't recall them installing seatbelts like CP did, went with the extra cross bars instead.

Friday, February 6, 2009 8:54 PM

I can't believe it...I finally got one right.

I remember a trip report I wrote last year saying saying that the view from the wheel is spectacular, but the view of the wheel showed rust, wear, and touches of shabbyness.

If they do it right, it could be spectacular.

It took several years, but someone finally listened to me.

Here's To Shorter Lines & Longer Trip Reports!

Sunday, February 8, 2009 4:23 PM

Yeah, no seatbelts on the GrAdv wheel. Didn't notice that there are extra bars though.

Sunday, February 8, 2009 6:30 PM

CP's Giant Wheel could use a refurbishment as well - a few of the lights have fallen victim over the years, and it looks a little rusty too. However, I much prefer incandescent lights on rides over the newer LED's, or even turbo lights, for that matter. I realize that it's important to watch energy consumption, and that parks get a real boost image-wise for doing so. Perhaps in the pocketbook, too, with reduction in maintenance and replacement.

But this week while at Universal I made it a point to drive by the "new" wheel at Fun Spot on I Drive at night, and I thought it was garish. The lights were so bright and the colors so intense that it 'bout hurt my eyes, and the flashing program was way too frantic. Especially from a distance, it looked more like a weird spaceship or something, rather than a ferris wheel. And instead of being an appealing billboard for the park, it looked like any closer and a headache was bound to happen. I know I Drive doesn't worry about such things, but it really amounted to what would be considered light pollution anywhere else. (Well, except Times Square and the Vegas Strip!)

Ok, so these flashy wheels are all the rage for various reasons. I hope Great Adventure's makeover of theirs doesn't overpower the rest of the park.

Sunday, February 8, 2009 6:42 PM
Jeff's avatar

Giant Wheel had a complete rehab in 2000 when it was moved. Aside from the paint fading a bit, I don't think it appears to be in poor shape at all. It's definitely not rusty. They pull the tubs down every year.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Music: The Modern Gen-X - Video

Sunday, February 8, 2009 8:30 PM

If I recall, it actually cost more to turn on the lights on the GW than run it, even considering the motor-generator set that was used to supply power to the four drive motors originally. It received a modern control system in the 2000 refurbishment. As far as LED lighting, while the initial expense is higher, the greatly reduced power consumption and longer life make them very appealing.

Sunday, February 8, 2009 10:50 PM

Yes, faded is a more apt description, I suppose. And I would be surprised if it's current location isn't maybe a little harder on the framework than when it sat a more inland. The tubs, for having been brought in for the winter each year, certainly are the nicest looking part of the ride these days.

We're lucky to have CP's Giant Wheel, though. It's of a size and design that you don't find much anymore, and it's so suited to a large amusement park. Parks these days seem to feature the smaller Chance wheels, if they have one at all. I guess thanks are in order to Six Flags for preserving their ride rather than disposing of it or replacing it with something inferior.

Sunday, February 8, 2009 11:55 PM

Actually, Dutchman, CP's Wheel got a new control system in 1997, before it was moved. That might also be the year they put the new lighting package on it.

And I think that's the one thing I don't like about the Cedar Point Giant Wheel. The old lighting package had these graceful curves on it, and the sections lit up in a logical sequence that worked very nicely. The current lighting is done with straight strips of lamps, and it seems that they added some lighting along some of the spokes that seems like, "Well, we have another circuit for lights, what do we do with it?".

Also, it's worth noting for someone else in the thread...Turbolites are, in fact, incandescent lamps. It's just that instead of using a colored 3/4-size light bulb, it is a colored plastic cover the size of a standard lamp, with a miniature-size clear light bulb inside. Turbolites allow a park or a show to carry only one type of replacement lamp and always have the right colors on the ride.

Oh, and now there are LED versions of the Turbolites available; Majestic uses them on the Catch'N Air and on the new Musik Express and certain bumper cars.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

Monday, February 9, 2009 9:51 AM

I could be wrong, but didn't Great Adventure's Schwarzkopf wheel come from somewhere else? I believe it operated elsewhere for a year or two before arriving in NJ.

I must be in the minority because I really despise the look of LED lights on most amusement rides. Morey's Piers switched their Giant Wheel's lights to LEDs a few years ago and the thing is not only ridiculously bright but there always seems to be an issue with the lights being out of sequence (people who have been to Wildwood and paid attention to the wheel in the past few years will know what I'm talking about.) I understand the reasons for switching to LEDs but so far they haven't impressed me. Even the LED Christmas lights don't look right.

Monday, February 9, 2009 9:55 AM
Jeff's avatar

Considering all of the LED lighting used in the games area adjacent to CP's Giant Wheel, I think it would fit right in.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Music: The Modern Gen-X - Video

Monday, February 9, 2009 10:03 AM

YOu better get used to the new lighting. There is 
movement to ban the use of incandescent lamps other than certain specialty 
applications (and providing flash on amusement rides isn't
one of them). 
Yes Dave I agree with you about the new lighting on the GW.
The flower petal was much more spectacular than just
filling the spokes and rim with lights.

Last edited by Dutchman, Wednesday, February 11, 2009 4:39 PM
Monday, February 9, 2009 11:19 AM

I noticed that the flower petal light strips are still present on the NJ wheel, at least in the picture associated with the article. I agree with Dave that the curved light strips were a great decorative feature of CP's wheel and I miss them too.

Yes, I realize that turbo lights are really incandescent bulbs with coverings but i still dont care for them. They look so plastic.

And Rob, I totally agree with you about the LED lights. Dave mentioned Majestic's use of LED's on certain rides now, and I just so happened to see a brand new Himalaya of theirs at the Florida State Fair last week. The lights were bright green, purple, and white, and YIKES! It was so freakin bright,(those Majestic rides ain't nothin but flash and no ride anyway) i could hardly look at it. Bound to be an attention getter on the midway, that's for sure!

Monday, February 9, 2009 11:21 AM

Exactly. I understand the purpose of lights (especially on carnival/fairground rides) is to attract attention but the LEDs are frighteningly bright.

Monday, February 9, 2009 11:34 AM

That just marks us as children of the 20th century. LEDs will be all our kids will know.

My author website:

Monday, February 9, 2009 5:07 PM

^ yes, that's true - they way we know will be soooo old fashioned someday, like antique lightbulbs!

And Rob, I did see one other Schwarzkopf wheel in North America and that was at that little weird amusement park on Clifton Hill, Niagra Falls, Canada. That place is long gone, but the time frame might put the wheel at Great Adventure.

Monday, February 9, 2009 6:28 PM

I never noticed the wheel looking rusted or like it was going to fall apart, but I DID notice that it looked faded and pretty old-fashioned. Its flower pattern was one of my favorite ferris wheel patterns though, so I'm glad to hear it likely will stay in that pattern....just hope it won't make the glo in the park parade look all washed out under the wheel's bright new lights.

"Look at us spinning out in the madness of a roller coaster" - Dave Matthews Band


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