Bellingham residents and tourists alike may soon find another attraction within the city of subdued excitement — the world’s largest human hamster wheel.
The hamster wheel is meant for people to use, like how a hamster would use its own hamster wheel.
Patrick Hurley, former director of the Downtown Bellingham Partnership, came up with the idea to draw both residents and tourists to the city.
The hamster wheel design was originally submitted to Sustainable Connection’s “KAPOW! Making spaces into living spaces” competition announced earlier this year.
The competition received entries from nearly 50 applicants, each with their own ideas on how to liven the downtown area and access spaces that are unused.
The wheel design made it to the top 10 in the competition and was presented to the public on Wednesday, March 25.
However, Hurley and his team removed themselves from the competition because the estimated $100,000 to $120,000 required for their wheel project was much more than the award provided. Because of this, they determined the project was not eligible for a city-funded event.
“The price accounts for the materials they chose in order to make the design aesthetically pleasing, safe, long lasting and, of course, large enough to be noticeable,” Hurley said.
Although Hurley and his team removed themselves from the competition, they are still planning on raising enough money to fund the project. They launched a website, bellinghamsterwheel.com, to promote their idea.
The website sells “Bellinghamster” tee shirts. A future goal is to possibly offer etchings of supporter’s names on the wooden planks inside the wheel, Hurley said.
Ideally, Hurley wants to ask the city for money. They would rather gain support from local property owners and funds, Hurley said.
“This competition kind of sparked the creative thinking of everyone who loves downtown,” Hurley said.
However, some Bellingham residents are skeptical of the record-breaking wheel.
Western student Pearl Angeles thinks there are other public needs that should be addressed. She said she believes there are plenty of other uses for that amount of money, including funding for outdoor bathrooms similar to the ones in Portland, a better bus system or helping the homeless population.
Another Western student, Garrett Gilbert, felt similar when he first heard about the giant wheel.
“I think that $120,000 is a lot of money for a visually-appealing attraction when it could go in to things like updating greener energy uses for public domains for public businesses,” Gilbert said.
Dan Welch and Adair Orr of [bundle] design studio designed the wheel to ensure an easily run, human-powered design. The steel-frame wheel would be 20 feet in diameter, which would make it the largest in the world, according to Hurley’s research.
Concerns of the city and people involved include safety and liability issues, Hurley said.
“We worked really hard on addressing that issue and mitigating any risks by creating a design that was safe,” Hurley said.
Currently, three locations are being considered as the future home of the wheel: Unity Circle next to Skagit Bank on Cornwall Avenue, The Lightcatcher at the Whatcom Museum – either in the courtyard or outside between the sidewalk and the street and Whatcom Creek Salmon Hatchery in Maritime Heritage Park.
“We like to say that nothing like this exists anywhere else, because there is only one place where it should be,” Hurley said.