Melbourne Star observation wheel closes blaming COVID-19 and Docklands construction

The landmark Melbourne Star Observation Wheel has closed permanently almost 13 years after it began operating in 2008.

The company behind the tourist attraction, MB Star Properties Pty Ltd, announced the immediate closure of the tourist attraction on Monday afternoon as it revealed it was going into liquidation.

The company said the COVID-19 pandemic, subsequent travel restrictions and lockdowns had made it “impossible to sustain the business” and the challenges had come on top of pre-existing difficulties amid “increased high-rise development and changes in the Docklands area”.

“The giant observation wheel has been a part of the city’s skyline for more than 15 years, during which time it has welcomed more than 300,000 visitors every year, with international and interstate tourists making up 45 per cent of the business,” the company said in a statement.

“We thank our staff, and all Victorians including our partners, suppliers and supporters for enabling the Melbourne Star to provide a world-class experience for millions of people from around Australia and the world.”

The company said it was committed to doing the right thing by its dedicated team, and had made arrangements to ensure that all employees would be paid their entitlements in full.

The 120-metre observation wheel, originally called Southern Star, was the subject of controversy after it opened in 2008.

The $100 million attraction was forced to shut just 40 days after its grand opening because of cracks caused by a problem with the original design. The wheel remained closed for almost five years before reopening in 2013.

There have also been questions of whether the wheel attracted enough visitors to justify its initial investment.

Andrew Hewitt of Grant Thornton will be appointed liquidator of MB Star Properties Pty Ltd.