Dismantled for major repairs
The project, undertaken by ING Real Estate and managed by Hansen Yuncken, cost A$100 million to construct between 2006 and 2008, and was expected to attract 1.5 million visitors each year.
The outer ring of the wheel was completed on 1 March 2008. The passenger pods arrived onsite on 10 June 2008 for installation. By 20 October 2008, the pods were receiving their fit out. An opening date of 28 November 2008 was set only to be postponed due to delays in procuring parts and bad weather. The wheel opened on 20 December 2008.
In January 2009, 40 days after opening, the wheel was shut down indefinitely after structural defects, including buckling and cracks, were detected. The operators initially blamed the 2009 Southeastern Australia heat wave for causing the damage. It was not known when the wheel would reopen.
Upon further investigation, engineers working on the wheel discovered the cracks were not caused by the heatwave but rather a problem in the original design. Fourteen cracks were found in the steel.
An undated press release on the operator's official website stated:
|“||The Southern Star Observation Wheel was temporarily closed in January 2009. As a result of extensive design and technical reviews a conclusion was reached to build a new wheel.||”|
Reconstruction work began in January 2011 with the delivery to Docklands of the first of the seven replacement spokes, manufactured by BMC, from the Latrobe Valley. In July 2011 the wheel was expected to be turning again by the end of the year. In October 2011 reconstruction was continuing, but no completion date had yet been confirmed.
On 28 November 2011 reconstruction work was still in progress when the wheel broke free from its restraints and began turning in strong winds, resulting in minor injuries for one of the workers as they fled the site. The next day, Southern Star Management issued a statement saying that bracing used to erect the wheel had failed, and that no final completion date for the wheel had yet been confirmed.In December 2011 it was reported that the wheel was not expected to reopen before Easter 2012.
In January 2012 it was reported that an international team of experts including Arup (who were involved in both the London Eye and the Singapore Flyer projects) and Hyder Consulting had been engaged in the redesign, and that reconstruction was now expected to be completed some time in 2012.
In June 2012 it was reported that owner ING Real Estate had repeatedly refused to announce an estimated completion date, but that an estimated date might be given at a briefing of state government officials planned for July.
In August 2012 it was reported that the wheel could reopen in January 2013, but only if there was "no wind, no rain for the next four months" - an unlikely scenario for Melbourne, "a city renowned for extremely windy springs and rain that washes out the first cricket matches". According to spokesman Ken Davis, 70 per cent of available construction time was being lost each week as cranes and lifts on the site could not operate in bad weather. He also stated that "due to the complexity of the construction process, we are not in a position to make any announcements regarding a 2013 opening date". However, later that same month, after the final section of the rim was installed, he stated "we're hoping it will be completed by the middle of next year".
The original 2008 structure consisted of 1,250 t (1,230 long tons; 1,380 short tons) of steel. Its supporting steel columns were manufactured in Tasmania by Alfasi Group, and the original wheel structure was manufactured in the Greater Melbourne suburb of Dandenong.
The 21 5.7 m (19 ft) long and 3.7 m (12 ft) high air-conditioned enclosed capsules were imported from Sanoyas Hishino Meisho in Osaka, Japan. Each able to accommodate up to 20 passengers, they provided extensive views of the city and Port Phillip bay and as far as Geelong.
The original LED lighting, comprising over 3500 meters of custom LED tubes and control systems, was manufactured in Korea by LGCNS, a division of LG Electronics, and designed and sold by Imagine That Design and Production of Las Vegas, Nevada, US.