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SkyWheel, LandShark eatery debuted today in Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach’s newest attraction, the SkyWheel and LandShark Bar & Grill, debuted this morning, but will be closed until 5 p.m. as crews work on the wheel’s neon lights.

More than 100 thrill-seekers – including locals, tourists who drove to town just for the opening and others who stumbled upon the event – crowded around the SkyWheel this morning aiming to be the first to ride the 187-foot-tall Ferris wheel. Both attractions are on the oceanfront near Mr. Joe White Avenue.

The first folks showed up as early as 5 a.m.- five hours before a ribbon cutting ceremony then the first spins on the wheel, which happened about 10:30 a.m.

Some of the first riders gave the ride, which does three loops and lasts about 12 minutes, rave reviews, especially for the panoramic views of the beach. The first riders this morning got to ride for free; admission will be $12 for adults and $8 for children ages 3 to 11.

“The view was spectacular,” said Lori Rossi, who moved to Surfside Beach about two weeks ago. “We’ll definitely be back.”

But the debut wasn’t glitch-free. Some riders said speakers in their temperature-controlled gondolas repeated a line over and over saying the ride was ready to start. And some of the gates for passengers to pass through to get in the gondolas wouldn’t open.

Crews closed the SkyWheel at noon to tinker with the neon lights on the wheel’s spokes. Some of the lights weren’t lighting during test runs Thursday night. The ride, which officials say was certified by the state Thursday night, is expected to reopen at 5 p.m. today. The LandShark Bar & Grill is staying open throughout the day. The ride and restaurant will close between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m.

Officials scrambled to meet today’s opening, with crews today still pouring cement for the sidewalks, watering freshly laid sod and tinkering with other pieces of the $12 million attraction.

“They were still doing construction yesterday,” said David Busker, president of Koch Development, which brought the attraction to Myrtle Beach. “There are still a few things, finishing touches.”

Officials say the attraction is a key to bringing downtown Myrtle Beach back, giving it an iconic feature to compete with other tourist hubs in town. Downtown has struggled to find its place since The Myrtle Beach Pavilion Amusement Park shut down in 2006, and some locals and tourists said the SkyWheel – while it can’t replace the Pavilion – will bring back some of that amusement feel.

“It’s going to be huge,” Myrtle Beach City Councilman Randal Wallace said. “It’s the beginning of like a whole new era, rebirth of the whole area.”

Here's what you need to know:

WHERE | The $12 million attraction is on the oceanfront beside Plyler Park in Myrtle Beach.

RIDE COST | $12 for adults, $8 for children ages 3 to 11, free for children ages 2 and younger

THE RIDE | Lasts about 12 minutes and goes around three times

REGULAR HOURS | Opens at 10 a.m. daily, will close about 1 a.m. or 2 a.m.

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