The Space Tower at the State Fair has been closed for the remainder of this year's Great Minnesota Get-Together, due to mechanical issues.
In a statement, State Fair officials said Thursday that the tower requires specialized electronic equipment that won't arrive until after the fair ends on Labor Day. A sign on the tower's door said that the 1960s-era structure was closed for maintenance.
The 300-foot gyro tower features a vertical moving platform that can take up to 60 fairgoers to the observation deck, which rotates to provide a 360-degree view of the Twin Cities.
The popular attraction operated smoothly during the first three days of the fair. But after a few rides on Sunday, a switch that signals the control circuits to slow down right before coming to a stop malfunctioned, moving in the wrong direction.
Operators immediately activated the manual mode to bring the ride down and deboard all the passengers. Subsequent efforts to restore the Space Tower's normal operation were unsuccessful.
Ben Kantor, a member of the family that has owned and operated the Space Tower for at least four decades, said nobody was hurt and that some refunds were given.
Searching for a fix
Since Sunday, the family has been troubleshooting the problem with technicians. They suspect the issue could be somewhere in the control relays, though no one had yet pinpointed the exact cause, Kantor said.
So instead of trying to fix the control relays — some of which date back to the original 1960s technology — Kantor said they've decided to just replace them in time for next year's fair.
"What we are planning on doing is relying heavily on our elevator company," he said, "so we can use elevator parts to control it."
A fair landmark
Inspired by a space tower at the Oklahoma State Fair, Minnesota's tower was built and designed by a company in Germany in 1964. It debuted at the State Fair the same year, near the height of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union.
The State Fair landmark provides about 60,000 rides a year, according to its operators. The ride takes about 3 to 5 minutes and costs $5 per person, ages 3 and up.