I go to the Irvine Spectrum Center a lot, and I always notice things that spark my curiosity. I'm sure the Irvine Co. is quite tired of me by now, but I had to find out what's going on with the Giant Wheel, the Ferris wheel near Nordstrom. It's been closed since Aug. 6, which I found strange. Why shut it down at the height of summer? Was something wrong?
I grew even more interested - dare I say suspicious - when it remained closed over Labor Day weekend, when families pack the Spectrum and flock to the ride.
According to Bill Rams, the Irvine Co.'s director of media relations, the company is making some modifications to the seat belts on the Giant Wheel so they can't be opened while the ride is operating. This is in response to new state guidelines developed after a 6-year-old boy at a fair in the San Joaquin Valley fell to his death last year after he climbed out of his seat on a Ferris wheel.
I have to admit my skeptical reporter nature took over and even though Bill's a friend, I wanted to make sure there were not any more serious problems with the ride. I called the California Department of Industrial Relations, which regulates amusement rides, and checked up on the Giant Wheel. They confirmed that the ride is closed for safety modifications required by the state on all similar rides, which some companies are fighting in court, and said they would inspect everything before the ride opens. It ends up there is no deadline to make the modifications, and the Irvine Co. is actually a little ahead of the curve here by deciding do it now.
Bill also told me the ride recently had its annual inspection by an outside structural engineer who recommended the welding be upgraded from the Italian standard to the more stringent American standard. The Irvine Co. is making those changes.
Now if they would just lower the Giant Wheel ticket price from $3 a ticket I'd be really happy.