Plans to demolish the Hong Kong Observation Wheel have been scrapped at the last minute after the incoming and current operators of the tourist attraction struck an agreement on Wednesday.
The ferris wheel sits on the Central harbourfront in front of piers No.9 and No.10, and the ride was first opened to the public in December 2014. It is operated by Swiss AEX, whose land lease with the Lands Department expired last Monday.
The government subsequently said that, unless an agreement to retain the wheel is reached, the site must be cleared to make way for the new tenant, The Entertainment Corporation Limited (TECL).
Swiss AEX claimed TECL had no experience in operating observation wheels – a claim the government denied – and that plans to transfer the existing wheel to TECL fell through. Swiss AEX offered to reopen the wheel, but the government said that TECL had won the tender. The existing wheel was set to be demolished and TECL was to build a new wheel.
In a turn of events, the parties released a joint statement on Wednesday stating that contracts transferring the ownership of the Observation Wheel between Swiss AEX and Dutch Wheels – the owner of the wheel – to TECL were signed that afternoon after five weeks of discussion.
A spokesperson for TECL said on Wednesday that “the company is delighted to have reached this point.”
“It has been a challenging road so far, given there is no precedent for the transfer of the Hong Kong Observation Wheel between operators.”
“We look forward to sharing The Entertainment Corporation [TECL]’s future plans for the activation of the Hong Kong Observation Wheel site.”
Timothy Peirson-Smith, spokesperson for Swiss AEX, said the parties have “worked tirelessly” to reach an agreement. He thanked businessman Allan Zeman, who facilitated the final discussions between the parties “in the interest of Hong Kong,” according to the statement.
Zeman described the situation as a “win-win” for Hongkongers and tourists, and said it will uphold Hong Kong’s reputation in the tourist industry. The government had invited Zeman to take part in the negotiations and was in close contact with him throughout, RTHK reported.
Peirson-Smith added that the Observation Wheel will only be reopened after contractual matters are finalised and licensing processes are completed, but promised it will be “at the soonest time.”