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Orlando Eye Beckons More Tourists, Jobs to Central Florida

May 13, 2015 - 6:00pm

Disney World and Universal Studios aren't the only attractions beckoning tourists to Orlando these days -- a 400 feet tall observation wheel called the Orlando Eye promises to give visitors to the busy city a bird's eye view of Central Florida -- and if the sky is clear, all the way to the Space Coast.

Launched earlier this month, the giant ferris wheel-ski lift hybrid lights up the sky at night -- a bright purple hue shines over the city that welcomed more tourists than New York City just two years ago.

Riders are taken on a 30-minute, air-conditioned journey, which takes about 20 minutes from start to finish. The wheel is currently the largest of its kind on the East Coast.

The Eye, which contains its very own Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum and Orlandos Sea Life Aquarium on the bottom floor, should bring 1,000 jobs to Florida and invest $250 million in Orlando, according to estimates from Gov. Rick Scott's office.

Scott made an appearance at the Eye at the end of April with an unlikely character -- Nik Wallenda, a daredevil from the Flying Wallendas -- to open the observation wheel.

Located on busy International Drive, the Orlando Eye is one of around a dozen similar observation wheels worldwide. They exist in in places like London, Dubai and Las Vegas.

The London Eye has become a staple attraction for tourists. Its run by the same operator as the Orlando Eye and averages around 4 million tourists each year.

The Orlando Eye has had a rough week or so, however. It closed twice in the last week and a half for technical difficulties. One problem was due to issues that caused it to stop every two to three minutes. The other, which occurred Thursday, was mysteriously attributed to an irregularity, but operators didn't explain beyond that.

"As a precautionary measure, the decision was made to temporarily cease operation of the Orlando Eye and investigate further today," said Orlando Eye management in a statement Thursday. "Our engineering team is working to ensure everything is operating properly and will return the wheel to full operational status as soon as possible."

It is uncertain when the Eye will reopen.

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