The Real Deal New York

New York Wheel developers say it could be more lucrative than the Empire State Building’s famous observatory

Wheel projected to rake in revenues of $128M with 4M visitors in 2017

December 14, 2015 01:28PM
By Katherine Clarke

A rendering of the New York Wheel

A rendering of the New York Wheel

“I see nothing in space as promising as the view from a Ferris wheel,” E.B. White once said. It turns out, developers in Staten Island feel similarly about their own giant wheel.

The New York Wheel is projecting first-year pre-tax revenues of a whopping $127.85 million in 2017, sources told The Real Deal. Those projections would make the wheel, Staten Island’s hotly-anticipated tourist attraction, more lucrative than the Empire State Building’s famed observatory deck, which took in $111.5 million in revenue last year.

Developers are projecting income of about $96 million in admission fees in the first year of operations. Sponsorships would account for another $10 million, while gift shop sales would bring in another $8.7 million. That’s according to financial projections provided to potential investors in the project.

Revenues from the 630-foot-tall wheel would grow to more than $166.52 million annually by 2021, the wheel’s developers predict.

Travis Noyes, a spokesperson for the developers, declined to comment.

The Empire State Building's observation deck

The Empire State Building’s observation deck

Those lofty projections rely on the attraction drawing more than 4 million customers in 2017, and 3.5 million customers per year in successive years. By comparison, the Empire State Building observatory draws around 4.3 million visitors per year, while the Statue of Liberty and Top of the Rock draw 3.5 million and 2.5 million, respectively.

Riders of the wheel would pay $35 per ride, compared to $32 to visit the 86th floor of the Empire State Building.

The wheel’s development team, led by Meir Laufer, Richard Marin and Andrew Ratner, has been raising an additional $150 million equity round for construction of the wheel.

BLDG Management’s Lloyd Goldman and jeans mogul Joseph Nakash are also on the wheel’s board of directors, sources said.

Once completed, the observation wheel is slated to be bigger than the London Eye.

Mitchell Moss, a professor of urban planning at New York University who said he was not familiar with the projections, said no one should underestimate the potential interest in the wheel.

“It used to be, when you got to Staten Island on the ferry, there was nothing for people to do,” he said. “Now there’s going to be the wheel as well as stores for people to go to. This is not just another observation deck – it’s an experience.”

Empire outlets, a new shopping complex developed by BFC Partners near the wheel, is also slated to open in 2017.