The Week — Nov. 22: Wheeling a new tradition

Ferris wheel comes to Victoria, Johnson Street Bridge gets a contractor and the queer bus is about to roll out

Ken Kelly of the DVBA is excited to unleash the newest holiday cheer for Centennial Square — a Ferris wheel.

Wheeling a new tradition

Victoria may have had to give up its dream of becoming a world-famous ice skating destination, but that doesn’t mean the Downtown Victoria Business Association has run out of ideas on how to make this year a festive fandango.

Cue the lights: now introducing Victoria’s first-ever Christmas Ferris wheel, set to charm residents and spin some holiday cheer until the end of . . . November.

For just $2 a ride, Victorians can soar above the city in the impressive 65-foot-tall Ferris wheel, which took centre stage at the fifth-annual Centennial Square Christmas Tree Light Up on Sat., Nov. 17.

“Our ice rink did have technical challenges around the power demands of its 100-tonne chiller, so it won’t be back this year,” says Ken Kelly, DVBA general manager, who hoped to turn the rink into a holiday landmark. “I dare not call this Ferris wheel a Christmas institution — yet! But we are very excited about it, and it’s a wonderful way to add to the magic of the season, and people love it.”

Kelly says the Ferris wheel will cost approximately 20 per cent of last year’s $60,000 ice rink (read about the old rink here), though the DVBA could only secure the ride for the last two weekends of November due to weather and subsequent attendance concerns.

Kelly isn’t ready to give up on the dream of the rink just yet, however, and says he is hopeful the DVBA can work with the city to upgrade the power in Centennial Square in coming years.

For those who missed the light-up, there’s still time to catch more cheesy fun at “Snow Day in Centennial Square” on Dec. 1 (1-5pm) when the DVBA supplies manufactured snow for all to enjoy, or the third-annual Figgy Pudding Carolling Competition on Dec. 15 (1-4pm). Square visitors can also bring a smart phone to interact with a 20-foot claymation story projected on the back wall of the McPherson Playhouse, or use just their voices to interact with a singing light-up “audio-reactive” tree. And, starting Sat., Nov. 24 and running every Saturday until Dec. 23, your first hour of parking is free at all five City of Victoria parkades, courtesy of the DVBA.

“These are never money-making ventures, and this year’s Ferris wheel will be something we evaluate, but you just can’t believe how neat it is until you go up there and experience it for yourself,” says Kelly.

For a spin around the lights, the Ferris wheel will be open to the public on Fri., Nov. 23, 5-10pm, Sat., Nov. 24, noon-10pm and Sun., Nov. 25, noon-8pm.

Bridge constructors chosen

Official word is that PCL Constructors Westcoast Inc. has been selected as the “preferred proponent” to create our new Johnson Street Bridge.

Victoria City Council directed staff to finalize the details of the fixed-price contract with PCL in a closed session last Fri., Nov. 16, though council will have to give the final approval before a contract can be awarded.

“It’s good news and an important step we had to get through,” says Mayor Dean Fortin. “We’re very pleased with PCL’s proposal, and that we’re now in a position to negotiate the fixed-price contract for the bridge within the approved budget.”

PCL beat out Peter Kiewit Infrastructure Co. and WCC Construction Canada, ULC, and has estimated that the project will be completed before March 31, 2016, with construction expected to begin in spring 2013. Over the coming months, PCL and the city will negotiate the final details.

Meanwhile, the city signed a new contract for $9.1 million with MMM Group for the bridge design, which the city says is within the planned budget for this work. Construction of the new bridge is expected to generate approximately 900 jobs.

“I’m happy,” says Fortin. “It was an important step, and we have more to go.”

Next stop: Prideville

Ready to board the rainbow bus? Creating Connections cordially invites you to come out and play at the “Bussed Out!?#%” Queerposium event.

A big yellow school bus packed full of Pride will travel the city in full regalia, stopping at queer-friendly spaces all over Victoria — from businesses to basements, bus stops to lunchrooms and more.

To join in the fun, dress up in all your favourite garb, and board the bus for a suggested donation of $25 (lunch is included). Find a stop at queerposium.org, and prepare to drive discussion in the queer community. M

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