Ferris wheel could be running by Memorial Day

By on December 6, 2012

(Boardwalk Attractions photo)

Nags Head commissioners have approved a zoning amendment that paves the way for a 55-foot Ferris wheel at Full Throttle Speedway, a go-kart track on U.S. 158 at milepost 15.5.

Track owner Darnell Tillett submitted the request to allow outdoor amusements as an accessory use to his business.

Tillett said he would like to have the ride running by Memorial Day.

“We want to start off by catering to the young kids with the Ferris wheel, which is really the icon of all amusement parks and is a tame family ride more or less,” he said Wednesday.

The Ferris wheel would be raised by Memorial Day weekend and would come down at the end of the summer

Commissioners approved an amendment to allow outdoor amusements throughout the commercial-outdoor recreational uses overlay district, which stretches along the bypass from Forbes Street near the old Windmill Point site south and across the causeway. The district includes a little more than 40 properties.

Full approval is pending submission by the Planning Board of lighting standards. In the past, town officials have been very strict about lighting.

“We don’t want to throw the door open to flashing lights. but if there is a workable compromise out there, we will try to find it,” Planning and Development Director Elizabeth Teague said.

Planners are expected to recommend a lighting plan to commissioners sometime in January, Teague said. This would give Tillett enough time to have the Ferris wheel operatiing by summertime.

“We want to start off small and let it grow as needed,” Tillett said Wednesday, adding that he would like to eventually expand the operation with more amusement rides. “We want to get feedback from customers, the town and citizens and then see where it goes over the years.”

Tillett, who also owns Mutiny Bay Adventure Golf in the same district, is considering several vendors for the ride. The Hampton Roads-based Boardwalk Attractions is among them.

Currently the height limit in the district is 35 feet. Under the amendment, it would be increased to 60 feet to allow for the Ferris wheel. The amendment also addresses setback and parking requirements for outdoor amusements.

“We received a lot of positive feedback after the town’s carnival this summer,” said Teague, referring to the 50th anniversary carnival the town hosted in July at the old Windmill Point site.

“At the planning board level, we recognize that this is a tourist destination and based on the success of the carnival, we know there is a desire to have amusement rides,” she said. “But we need to balance this with the land use plan we’ve worked so hard on.”

The popular Dowdy’s Amusement Park at milepost 11 closed several years ago after being in operation since the 1960s. It was the only park of its kind on the northern Outer Banks. The property is now for sale.

Teague said Dowdy’s was often a source of contention from nearby neighbors due to noise and lighting. She added that district where the Ferris wheel is proposed was created specifically for outdoor recreation to avoid affecting homes.

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December 12, 2012 4:35 pm

beacheye says:

This is a good first step, but we’re not officially awesome as a tourist destination until we get a TILT-A-WHIRL-.

I like the way you think! The TILT-A-WHIRL was my favorite ride at Dowdys.


December 11, 2012 9:35 pm

The small mindeness of people here never ceases to amaze me. This is about a FERRIS WHEEL for goodness sake. I hardly think this will turn the Outer Banks into Ocean City. You cannot stop change.


December 11, 2012 6:31 pm

Whatever happened to coming to the beach for the beach?!!

Mrs. Judy

December 10, 2012 6:11 pm

I was born in Manteo. Went all the way through school graduating in 1982. I remember going to the Pizza Hut on the beach without seeing other vehicle in the winder. Now we have 2 rush hours. I to remember going down the ridge, going across the sound with my car on the ice, drafty tavern, hide or seek at Fort Raleigh, and Many other things. Let’s put God back in our every step and then bring FAMILY fun back!! We all need to also stand behind local businesses.

Common Sense

December 10, 2012 11:36 am

Everything in moderation…

Miss Faith

December 10, 2012 1:05 am

so do i, but you missed my point completely – we worked with what WAS here and they were the times of our lives! i am SOOOOO tired of hearing people say we have nothing to offer – BS! oh, and by the way – that changing world is the reason our sandbar has been compromised. google the demise of cape cod. we keep it up and our great grandchildren won’t even know there was a beach road!

Jimmy c

December 9, 2012 7:48 pm

I’m sorry if my words seem harsh but I really do miss the good clean fun we could have here as kids

Jimmy c

December 9, 2012 7:42 pm

Miss Faith yes I do remember all of those things.So what is wrong with bringing back a little of it.I worked at Dowdys & the Lost Colony sang every night under the shed next to the consesion stand(ran by the Lions Club).What’s wrong with bringing a little family time back to Gods sandbar.Kids need something to take them away from the electronic world & dinner with the folks doesn’t do it anymore I’m a parent of a teen I know.I used to live for Sunday dinner at CATCO but the world has changed

Miss Faith

December 9, 2012 10:57 am

For all of you that think we need that kind of “family entertainment”, most of the Jersey Shore is still there, as well as Ocean City, MD. Newbies. Besides the true natives, there are those of us I like to refer to as the “remember-when faction”. Remember when the by-pass was dirt and then two lanes? Remember when Dowdy’s and the Circus Tent were our HUGE night out treats? Remember when we could sing along at The Lost Colony because we’d seen it so many times? Remember when a weekly rental with any AC and a radio was a five star accommodation? Remember when ‘take only pictures, leave only footprints’ was what the National Seashore was all about? Newman’s? Corrugated sledding down Jockey’s Ridge? The only stickers around here were the Brew Thru ones that Dana (genius since ’77) had his energetic staff slap on our bumpers and luggage carriers. Yes, the ferris wheel is a lovely thing, but I’ve got a better idea. Why doesn’t everyone turn off their cells phones, disconnect the Wifi, hide the Wii and XBox, quarantine the “media” room and demand some family time? Enjoy the peace, the wonder and the healing that used to be the draw of the Outer Banks. Everyone else should stay home, and those that have come here for anything else should go back to where they came from. We all need to pray God forgives us for what we have done to His splendor!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jimmy C

December 9, 2012 10:48 am

Beacheye I used to run the tilt-a-whirl!It was fun untill I had to drag out the washdown hose LOL

Jimmy C

December 9, 2012 10:46 am

Good job Darnell your Grandad would be proud!Thanks to the Town for passing this.I used to work at Dowdys & I’ll be talking to Darnell about giving my daughter a job.I agree we need more kid friendly things in Nags Head You folks that don’t agree go back to where you came from

Gene Hoglan

December 9, 2012 1:25 am

T.Schmidt: There’s been several water parks which have all gone under for various reasons, Diamond Shoals being the most recent. Waterfall Park is still around too.

Lisa W

December 8, 2012 7:32 pm

I say Boooooo! Our family comes to OBX to get away from iur own commercialized Jersey shore. I can’t stand the boardwalk and all of the rides. Please keep it just a place to go to the beach and relax!

T. Schmidt

December 8, 2012 12:19 am

Great idea. We market the outer banks as a family friendly vacation destination but continue to remove activities for families. this is a step in the right direction, but rather than a casino, i ould like to see a water park. i have always been amazed that there isn’t one somewhere on the outer banks. Let’s not forget the bulk of our revenue and tax income comes from tourists.


December 7, 2012 12:14 pm

I think it is a good idea but if the height limit is raised from 35 ft. to 60 ft. is this just for the ferris wheel or will it open the door to high rise buildings. Also, if the ferris wheel is only from Memorial Day weekend and will come down at the end of the summer it is really for the tourist season not our local children.


December 7, 2012 9:15 am

This is a good first step, but we’re not officially awesome as a tourist destination until we get a TILT-A-WHIRL-.


December 7, 2012 6:03 am

Clayton, Don’t give them any ideas. You can bet if they can build a casino and squeeze a little more bucks out of tourist they will, after all we all are here for the tourists.

george mendelson

December 7, 2012 5:26 am

Amen on the box store comment. If ever there were a blight on OBX it’s the box stores. Amusements, such as the ferris wheel, properly sited and regulated as proposed, would be an excellent addition that would enhance the summertime experience for locals and visitors alike. Let’s not go too overboard with other similar facilities though. Even a good thing can be done to excess. And, please, no casinos; just about the only thing worse than box stores.

Gene Hoglan

December 6, 2012 8:43 pm

It never ceases to amaze how so many people who claim to care about the area, despite moving here from VA Beach or Ohio or wherever, boo and hiss any attempt at adding things for kids and families to do (anyone remember the old Nags Head Playhouse?), yet cheer on every new big box chain store that comes to replace locally owned businesses.

Those are the things which are turning your precious beach into whichever wasteland you moved from, not a locally owned and operated ferris wheel.


December 6, 2012 8:16 pm

Looks like Nags Head will be the next ocean city md. Lets not stop there, build a casino next and make everbody happy.

John Mark Quidley

December 6, 2012 7:36 pm

It is a wonderful idea and would be a great asset to the Outer Banks. There needs to be more family-friendly entertainment in our community. Nags Head planning board and town commissioners I thank you for your approval!

Steven J.

December 6, 2012 7:17 pm

I agree I use to work at Dowdy’s and miss the sound of Go Karts and music playing during the Summer… There really is no place for kids anymore on the Outer Banks other than Putt-putt

Free Bird

December 6, 2012 6:24 pm

you want to really ramp up tourism set aside a section of beach as clothing optional


December 6, 2012 5:03 pm

The carnival was great and highly attended by locals.
Good job Nags Head. Letting the people have fun is good for the community and business.

At the meeting

December 6, 2012 4:41 pm

There will be other kids rides and games also.

nags head bob

December 6, 2012 3:58 pm

Why not? The town of nags head is already a circus full of clowns…..

Just kidding. Love the idea! Surprised they are letting them do it……


December 6, 2012 3:56 pm

Excellent idea! Clean fun for the whole family and locals as well!!!! I hope more ideas like this are submitted and approved…….are you listening Nags Head!


December 6, 2012 3:43 pm

Oh that would be wonderful! We have missed not having an amusement park for our grandchildren to attend since Dowdys closed. Very much needed! Bravo!


December 6, 2012 1:29 pm

What? Nags Head might actually become the family fun place on the Outer Banks?


Joy Rider

December 6, 2012 12:21 pm

Thank you to the Town of Nags Head for understanding and allowing people to have fun when they come to visit, and also for us residents. When we had the Carnival, it was evident that people would wait in line for over an hour to have the thrill of a ferris wheel ride. I hope to be in line the first day it opens. Thanks too Darnell Tillett and to our Planning Director. Kudos to all.


December 6, 2012 12:20 pm

…I miss Dowdy’s..

Let’s build a theme park pier, Jersey Shore here we come.. BLAH


December 6, 2012 11:53 am

I love it! What a beautiful way to see the splendor of the area from the air, without an airplane ride!

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