By KERRY SMITH, EDITOR, ST. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION NEWS AND REVIEW MAGAZINE
St. Louis motorists traveling along Interstate 40 who glance quickly to the north will see a 200-foot-tall observation wheel taking shape at Union Station, the first of several facets within a brand-new $150 million family entertainment complex that is evidence of the historic train station’s rejuvenation.
Steve O’Loughlin, president and chief operating officer of St. Louis-based Lodging Hospitality Management, said the coming two to three weeks will bring “fast and furious” work on the anticipated signature attraction. The St. Louis Wheel’s 42 eight-passenger compartments are climate controlled for year-round enjoyment. Each ride averages 15 minutes. From the top, visibility will span up to 20 miles.
“The legs of the observation wheel are going up, and very soon we’ll see the spokes being added,” said O’Loughlin, noting that the wheel is stationed at the west side of Union Station, behind Landry’s Seafood House. “When the wheel is operational in September, it will be lighted at night and have the capability of changing colors to celebrate holidays, events, gender reveals and more.”
Manufactured by D.C.-based ICON Attractions, St. Louis’ observation wheel will closely resemble the wheel managed and operated in National Harbor, MD by the same firm. LHM will own the Union Station attraction and ICON will operate it here as well, according to O’Loughlin.
The St. Louis Aquarium – a 2-story, one-million-gallon attraction with a 250,000-gallon saltwater shark tank – is on schedule to be completed in December. Also part of the entertainment mecca will be a classic carousel, on-site passenger train, indoor ropes course, miniature golf, restaurants and an outdoor retro soda fountain. Several of the outdoor components are anticipated to open early this fall, according to LHM.
PARIC performed all the exterior site work and McCarthy is spearheading construction of the aquarium.
LHM’s expansive redevelopment of St. Louis Union Station coincides with the 125th anniversary of the station, a National Historic Landmark that was once regarded as the world’s largest and busiest train station.