San Francisco is looking to keep the Ferris wheel in Golden Gate Park for another four years.
The 150-foot SkyStar Wheel was brought to the park last October as the centerpiece for the park's 150th anniversary. But it's been largely closed because of COVID-19 restrictions.
On Thursday, Feb. 4, the city's Recreation and Park Commission's Operations Committee will consider extending its stay through March of 2025. It is currently slated to be removed this March.
City officials say extending its stay would allow time for the public to use and enjoy the Ferris wheel -- which provides sweeping views of downtown San Francisco to the Pacific Ocean -- and provide economic stimulus as San Francisco recovers from the pandemic.
The wheel opened last October at 25 % capacity but operated just five weeks before San Francisco entered the most restrictive purple tier and it was shut down.
City officials said they were expecting the observation wheel to draw about 500,000 riders in a year, but so far less than 66,000 people have had a chance to take a spin.
"Extending the SkyStar Wheel's time in San Francisco will allow us to finally fulfill people's expectations and accommodate the thousands of riders whose hopes were dashed," said Nancy Bechtle, a co-chair of the Golden Gate Park 150th Honorary Committee. "During the brief time the wheel was open, it brought immense joy and life to the Music Concourse. It provided people with a respite from the pandemic and a new way to see their beloved park."
The proposal will be first heard Feb. 4, at San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission's Operations Committee, then sent to the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) for review. If approved by the HPC, the matter will go before the full Rec and Park Commission for authorization.
City officials say extending the wheel's permit will also allow its operator, Skyview Partners, to fulfill and extend its commitment to provide 500 tickets each month to underserved communities in San Francisco. The extension, if passed, would allow 16,000 free tickets to go to low-income families.
Officials say keeping the wheel in San Francisco also means supporting economic recovery.
"It helps the park's cultural institutions and merchants in surrounding neighborhoods," said Rodney Fong, a co-chair of the Golden Gate Park 150th Honorary Committee and CEO of the SF Chamber of Commerce. "It's a unique experience that will help draw tourists back to San Francisco when health officials deem it safe again."