By YOO MI CHIN Contributing Reporter

How much does a new Ferris wheel cost? Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier has the answer: $1.5 million.


That's how much the park, owned by Santa Monica Amusements LLC, is spending to replace its towering attraction, which has sold more than 3 million tickets in its 12 years at the waterfront.


But pier economics are linked more closely to sunny skies than to the Ferris wheel, merchants there said.


"Our business is completely weather-dependent," said Alex Roy, manager of pier eatery Rusty's Surf Ranch.


Recent warm weather has brought crowds to the establishment, but Roy isn't indifferent to the new attraction, though.


"The new Ferris wheel will bring more people to the pier, which means more people circling to our restaurant," he said.


The removal process of the Ferris wheel in preparation for the installation of the new one will begin this week, and the replacement will be completed by Memorial Day weekend. The incoming Ferris wheel will feature 15,000 energy-efficient solar-powered LED lights.


While the new wheel will have a different look, the experience of the ride will be similar. Jeff Klocke, marketing director at Pacific Park, said that he would expect an increase in ticket sales due to media coverage.


The park's dining and entertainment outlets, which include 12 amusement rides, 21 midway games and an oceanfront food plaza, will remain open during the two-week replacement period. Other businesses on the pier will be in operation as well.


"We will minimize the effects on the attractions in the surrounding area," Klocke said. "We've got it mapped out, and we don't think the replacement is going to affect the rest of the park at all. We won't be doing much replacement work over the weekends."


The new Ferris wheel is being built by Chance Morgan Rides Manufacturing Inc., a manufacturer of amusement rides and people movers based in Wichita, Kan.
The old wheel sold on eBay for $132,400 after a 10-day auction. The proud owner is Grant Humphreys in Oklahoma City, and the park will donate half the money to Special Olympics Southern California.

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