Today the 10-story Giant Wheel rises above Irvine Spectrum Center as its most recognizable landmark.
But its story begins at the turn of the century when Irvine Company planners began a world-wide search for an illuminated Ferris wheel to entertain guests at the popular outdoor center.
They scouted Ferris wheels throughout America before traveling to Paris and eventually Casale di Scodosia, Italy, (just south of Venice) where they met the manufacturer of a 108-foot Ferris wheel housing 24 Old World Andalusian-inspired gondolas.
In the summer of 2002, after traveling three weeks from Italy, the custom-designed and handcrafted Italian Giant Wheel arrived. It took eight weeks to assemble, at the direction of its Italian engineers, and adorn with 12,500 red, white and blue lights.
When it rose into the sky that October, it became just the third large fixed-wheel in Southern California, following those at Santa Monica Pier and Disney’s California Adventure.
In 2015, the original standard light bulbs were replaced with 52,000 energy-efficient LED lights capable of 16 million different color schemes.
And now, the Giant Wheel carries more than 682,000 riders per year up, up and away.