Navy Pier Ferris Wheel, Star of 'Divergent,' To Get First Makeover

By Lizzie Schiffman on March 20, 2014 5:06pm 

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 The Navy Pier Ferris wheel is gondola-free for a few weeks as the red carriages get some updates and a new paint job.
Navy Pier Ferris Wheel
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NAVY PIER — Navy Pier's Ferris wheel — which is prominently featured in the new movie "Divergent" opening Thursday night — is getting its first makeover in its history.

While the wheel was actually made to look weathered and distressed for the movie, which is set in a dystopian future Chicago, the refurbishing will make the iconic wheel look brighter than it has since it opened in 1995.

The wheel's 40 red gondolas were removed this week and shipped off to FiberGlass Chicago, Inc. in Steward, Illinois to get a fresh coat of paint and to have their six-seat interiors refurbished, according to Nick Shields, a Navy Pier spokesman.

Refurbishments include replacing some damaged fiberglass windows and adding new speakers to the gondolas.

The 150-foot tall wheel will be cleaned, as well.

Shields said the sprucing was necessary maintenance and has nothing to do with filming, although crews did use some movie magic to age the ride.

"They put something on there, I'm not sure what they used, but it made it look older and dirty without causing any damage," Shields said.

The wheel appears in a scene in which actress Shailene Woodley's character climbs up the wheel during an initiation test.

The overhaul should take about a month. Shields said the gondolas should be re-installed by mid-April, and will reopen soon after for what Shields called its busiest season — perhaps amplified this year by the attraction's role in the big-budget film.

"We're excited to see it in the movie," he said.

The Ferris wheel has been ridden well over 10 million times since it opened, and it generally operates year-round — weather permitting.

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