With the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo underway, there's a new kid on the block. The Le Grande XL ferris wheel made its worldwide debut on the rodeo carnival midway Tuesday, dominating the two other ferris wheels and multitude of rides near NRG Stadium and the Astrodome.
The gigantic "portable observation wheel," dubbed the largest in the western hemisphere, towers 130 feet high, allowing for a panoramic view of the Astrodome, the Texas Medical Center and downtown Houston in the distance. It has 36 air-conditioned cabins, holding up to six people each, with padded leather seats and floor-to-ceiling windows. It takes 3 to 3-1/2 minutes to make the full circle, although the ride is longer that that as passengers enter and disembark.
"Every year we strive to bring our rodeo fair partners the newest rides out there. The folks here deserve it," said Chris Lopez, vice president of Ray Cammack Shows Inc. (RSC), which operates the midway. "This is the only rodeo/fair/festival that we know of where you have the choice of three giant wheels to choose from. We invite everyone to come on down and ride all of them and let us know what you think."
The Le Grande XL can hold up to 2,000 passengers an hour. The cost for the ride is $10 (the equivalent of 20 tickets).
Lopez said the ferris wheel was built in Europe at a cost of $6 million and ferried to the U.S. by boat. Then it traveled in 23 52-foot semi-trailers to Houston, where it took 10 days to assemble it.
It will take about that long to take it apart after the rodeo ends on March 26. Then it will travel to Indio, California, for the Coachella Music Festival in mid April.