The Big Wheel in Ocean City

Gondolas from the “Big Wheel” at Trimper Rides lined the Boardwalk this week after ride owner Michael Wood began dismantling it for a city code violation.

The owner of a Ferris wheel that was erected at the south end of the Boardwalk at Trimper Rides at the beginning of this season said he is still weighing options of whether to take the “Big Wheel” out of Ocean City or try to make it fit onto the amusement park’s property without encroaching on the public easement.

Last week, Trimper Rides was directed by the mayor and City Council to either move a ride called “The Big Wheel” or take it down because after it was constructed, the wheel extended more than 10 feet over the Boardwalk.

The order came just days after the president of Trimper Rides, Antoinette Bruno, hosted a ribbon cutting to celebrate the opening of the “Big Wheel” with some of the park’s shareholders.

During the City Council’s meeting on June 7, Bruno said she did not feel Trimper’s was in violation and that the Ferris wheel was placed so it overhung the Boardwalk by four feet, as permitted by council.

But the council never gave Bruno and Trimper’s permission to construct the wheel four feet over the boards. On Oct. 5, when permission to do that was sought by Bruno, council members tabled the request to review the legalities of her request. Without the issue ever being placed back on the agenda – despite Bruno saying she asked for it to be put back on – Trimper moved full steam ahead to install the new ride.

As a result, Bruno was cited and fined $500 per day until the ride was moved so it did not overhang the Boardwalk at all. 

The city also told Bruno and Ferris wheel owner Michael Wood, the owner of Wood Entertainment Company in San Antonio, Texas, it would double the fine if the ride wasn’t moved by this past Monday, according to Wood.

On Saturday, Wood and his crew dismantled the wheel portion of the ride, lining up the gondolas along the Boardwalk on Trimper’s property, and loading the frame of the wheel onto a truck trailer to ensure the ride did not extend over the Boardwalk, and the fines would stop.

Now, Wood said he is looking into options regarding what to do next.

“We’re trying to work out the logistics of what is possible at this point,” he said on Wednesday. “Hopefully, we should know something in the next 12-24 hours.”

Wood said he has a 200-ton crane ready to dismantle what is left of the wheel, and he is waiting on confirmation for when the crane will be available to reconstruct the wheel, if possible.

Either way, he said, a crane is needed to take down or relocate the ride.

“It’s definitely a logistical challenge,” Wood said, adding that he is looking to see whether moving the ride is possible or even financially feasible. “My preference would obviously be to stay.”

Moving the ride would require at least 10 days of work with a crew of 25-30 people and would cost tens of thousands of dollars – money that Wood will have to cough up to stay in town.

When Wood erected the ride, he said his understanding was that Trimper Rides would have to go to the City Council for a variance to go beyond the property line. He also said he went to work with the assumption that everything was good.

“Obviously it was not, and here we are,” Wood said. “I feel bad for Trimper’s that it came to this, and I feel bad for the position the City Council is in. 

“They’re job is to maintain stability and law and order. But who I feel the worst for are the citizens and those who come to Ocean City and vacation, because they’re the ones who miss out the most,” he added.

Bruno told the council on June 7 that it would not be possible to remove one ride to have the “Big Wheel” relocated, but despite her claim, it was determined that it would work.

Wood said Trimper Rides was presented a package that included four rides, but on Wednesday, he expressed that he would be flexible if needed.

“I won’t say if one goes, they all go – that doesn’t make sense. That’s being pretty hardheaded and stubborn,” he said. “They are linked contractually. If I have to reduce to three ... that’s something I’m willing to consider.”

He added that he is waiting on the logistics to be able to make the decision.

Representatives with Trimper Rides did not respond to multiple calls and emails seeking comments on the matter.

This story appeared in the print version of Ocean City Today on June 18, 2021.

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