ATLANTIC CITY — Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Maseratis aren’t the only thrilling, wheeled things made in Italy.

One gigantic wheel under construction in Melara, Italy, promises to elevate the fun factor at the Steel Pier amusement park to an entirely new level.

The 200-foot-high Observation Wheel, one of the tallest attractions of its type in the country, will offer riders sweeping views of the ocean and Atlantic City skyline from inside climate-controlled gondolas.

Steel Pier representatives traveled to Italy this week to inspect the construction of the $14 million Observation Wheel at the manufacturer’s facilities outside Venice. The ride is expected to be up and running later this year, perched atop a 30,000-square-foot expansion of Steel Pier now under construction.

“This is literally one of the first legs of the new foundation for Atlantic City,” Steel Pier President Anthony Catanoso said. “This Observation Wheel is truly a metaphor for how far we can go when it comes to building nongaming venues in Atlantic City. The wheel, along with the pier’s extensive renovation, are just some of the many exciting revitalization efforts going on right now at Atlantic City.”

The wheel is expected to attract 50,000 riders a month. It will become the tallest observation wheel in New Jersey, eclipsing similar attractions at Morey’s Piers in Wildwood, Gillian’s Wonderland Pier in Ocean City and Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson Township.

Steel Pier, owned by the Catanoso family, has added 14 new rides and $23 million in renovations in recent years to build on its reputation as a family-friendly attraction along the Boardwalk.

The Observation Wheel is being built with funding assistance from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, the state agency that oversees Atlantic City tourism and redevelopment projects.

The Catanosos plan to transform Steel Pier from a summer destination to a year-round amusement park by eventually enclosing between a third and two-thirds of the attractions. The centerpiece Observation Wheel will be open year-round because its fully enclosed gondolas will have heating and air-conditioning.

Technical Park, the wheel’s Italian manufacturer, exports amusement rides all over the world. Towering observation wheels built to withstand severe winds and earthquakes are one of the company’s specialties, according to the Technical Park website.

The Catanosos said they have been impressed with the Observation Wheel’s workmanship while inspecting its assembly at Technical Park’s factories.

“We see the incredible attention to detail on each part and how all the involved factories are working closely together to create this magnificent structure,” said James Catanoso, Steel Pier’s operations manager. “We can’t wait for visitors to Atlantic City to glimpse what we are seeing here.”

Contact Donald Wittkowski:

609-272-7258

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