Soaring ‘SkySpire’ proposed for waterfront

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SAN DIEGO -- Spiraling gondolas would carry visitors to a rotating restaurant high atop a soaring, bayfront observation tower under a proposal being considered by the San Diego Port District.

The ‘SkySpire’ is one of five proposals being considered by the Port as part of the bay front development over the next 50 years. The tower with a rotating restaurant would be similar to Seattle's  Space Needle, but revolving gondolas would provide 360-degree views as they spiraled up, making the San Diego tower unique.

“They’ll enter a 10-passenger heated or cooled gondola that will revolve around the tower about two to three revolutions going up,” said Michael Kitchen, president of U.S. Thrill Rides Inc. “In the core of the tower itself, there will be two elevators that will allow you to bypass the gondola and go straight up to the restaurant level on the top.”

The Florida-based company has plenty of experience in paid attractions and only decided to throw their hat into the ring after hearing about the snag associated with the $200 million giant ‘sky wheel’ proposal at Discovery Point. The FAA raised concerns about its 450-foot height.

“These towers are all custom-designed to different heights and variations depending on what the community says we can build to,” Kitchen said.

Kitchen and his father run the company. Michael lived in the Gaslamp Quarter in the past, so he is well-acquainted with San Diego and says the bayfront is the perfect location for this type of project. For the sake of their demonstration Tuesday before the Port District, he chose the area north of Seaport Village near the Tuna Harbor Pier to build the $30- to $40-million tower.

“The Ferris wheels are all over the place so we tried to come up with something far more contemporary and new, where people would look at it and say wow this a beautiful attraction and unique,” Kitchen said.

The company will only have a few minutes before the Port District. The port will hear other proposals as well, but no decisions will be made and there is no timetable to greenlight any new project.

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