balboa park

Balboa Park Star: The Wheel Deal?

Ferris wheel could be installed on Plaza de Panama for 3-6 months, according to one report

NBC Universal, Inc.

The pandemic could take dining to new heights in Balboa Park.

The Cohn Restaurant Group, which owns the iconic Prado Restaurant and Tea Pavilion that are located in the park, is trying to convince the city to temporarily install an upscale Ferris wheel (it seems organizers prefer calling it an "observation wheel") in the Plaza de Panama between the San Diego Museum of Art and the Timken Museum on a footprint of 56x75 feet.

The organization is calling it the Balboa Park Star.

The restaurant group said the Star would be more than just an attraction to the park and that its 36 enclosed gondolas could also be a new, safe dining option during the pandemic. Each gondola can accommodate as many as eight passengers, with up to 288 passengers revolving simultaneously.

The idea for the proposed three-to-six month installation has already been presented to the Balboa Park Committee, according to a published report, with the the restaurant group planning to seek formal approval next month. That same report stated that the estimated cost to riders would be about $12-$15, with discounts available for families, military and seniors. Installation and dismantling of the structure would take approximately a month in total.

Southern California residents and music fans will recognize the structure from a close cousin installed every year at Indio, Calif., for the annual Coachella music festival. That Ferris wheel is approximately the same height as the Balboa Park Star would be. While there are a host of similar structures installed around the world, perhaps the most famous is the London Eye, which, according to, is a whopping 443-feet high and boasts 32 gondolas, which can each carry an astounding 800 people at a time.

It wouldn't be the first time a Ferris wheel was installed in the park, of course: Each year a ride is installed down by the San Diego Automotive Museum during December Nights, and one "anchored the Isthmus Entertainment Distict of the 1915 Panama-California Exhibition," according to the Cohn Restaurant Group's proposal.

While the Balboa Park Star would loom large over the Plaza de Panama, riders would still not be able to see over the nearby California Tower at the Museum of Us, which reaches nearly 200 feet into the sky, according to park officials.

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