It’s been a long time coming, but the brand new observation wheel is now towering proudly over the Steel Pier. And while it is not open to the public just yet — an official opening date has yet to be announced, but sources say it will be in the next month— excitement and buzz is thick in the air.

So — why a wheel?

“We were looking for a unique attraction that could be a year-round attraction for the pier. And the observation wheel was the perfect fit. We have been looking into it for several years, and this was the right time,” says Anthony Catanoso, owner of Steel Pier. “The wheel has the ability to do as much business as the entire pier combined.”

For those not familiar with the concept, an observation wheel may look similar to a traditional ferris wheel, but there are some major differences that make this new attraction anything but traditional.

“The observation wheels are usually a little higher,” Catanoso says. “Ours is 225 feet at the top and includes climate controlled gondolas instead of an open cabin. You can fit anywhere from four to six people in each gondola. You’ve got air conditioning and heating, music … you can do a beverage service. It’s an 18 minute ride, which is much longer than your average ferris wheel.”

Catanoso’s excitement is infectious and for good reason. The north end of Atlantic City has seen some bad luck in the last few years, with the closing of Revel, Taj Mahal and Showboat. But with Hard Rock Hotel & Casino coming in and Showboat back on its feet, the addition of the observation wheel to Steel Pier is just one more feather in the cap of this part of town.

“This attraction is going to bring in a lot of people,” Catanoso says. “And it’s ultimately going to be the hub of activity down here (at the north end of A.C.). This is where it’s all going to be happening, and this is the perfect attraction for people of all ages … from 8 months to 80 years!”