Does Chattanooga need a riverfront Ferris wheel?

This is the question posed by several local entrepreneurs who have started a new campaign to make it a reality.

Both a Facebook page and Twitter profile called Chattanooga Wheel have been created. As of this article, the former has over 500 likes and the latter over 700 followers. The Instagram account is equally impressive.

And there’s this:


It’s no surprise that entrepreneur Joe Ledbetter is behind the project. He is a spirits entrepreneur and the co-founder of Chattanooga Whiskey, Tennessee Stillhouse and Freedom Moonshine.

And he’s completely serious about bringing a Ferris wheel to Chattanooga.

“Yeah, this is complete randomness, but sometimes, when you put complete randomness out there, it sticks,” he said. “Let’s just say I’ve got meetings scheduled for next week.”

Ledbetter got the idea during a recent stay at the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel in Atlanta. Adjacent to the hotel is the SkyviewFerris wheel in Centennial Park.

Would Chattanooga benefit from having a downtown Ferris wheel like this one at Navy Pier in Chicago? (Photo: Anh Dinh, Flickr)

The 20-story attraction features 42 climate-controlled gondolas, including a special VIP booth with Ferrari leather seats, a glass floor and a longer flight time.

“It’s lit up and gorgeous,” Ledbetter said. “If it’s done the right way, I think a Ferris wheel can add something to the city …. Gatlinburg, Las Vegas and Seattle have them. They’re just cool and classy.”

Ledbetter is not alone on the project, as evidenced by the video above. He said he is working closely with James Chapman, entrepreneur-in-residence at Causeway.

Chapman told us the idea is completely serious.

“We are still working out the details, but I will be involved to some degree for sure,” Chapman said. “It’s an excellent idea, and I have thought through some of the concepts with Joe in the early stages. I’m excited.”

Chapman said everyone loves a Ferris wheel.

“I think it would be a great fit for our town,” he said. “It would add beauty and fun to our city. I see high schoolers and adults riding it who are on dates, kids riding it … tourists riding it.”

The next step would be to secure a property, which Ledbetter said is already in the works.

But he also wants to gauge the public’s interest for the project.

Several Facebook comments have already expressed concerns for the project. One person indicated a Ferris wheel on the riverfront would “make us resemble tourist traps like Myrtle Beach.”

But so far, the reactions have been overwhelmingly positive.

“My whole thing is that if Michael Jackson can have one, why can’t I?” Ledbetter said. “We’re having some meetings. There is a piece of property. But we gotta look and see what the numbers look like. Also, I did not come up with this idea while I was drunk.”

So what do you think? Does Chattanooga need a Ferris wheel?