Caesars pushing forward with High Roller observation wheel

Ever wanted to get married in a moving sphere overlooking the Strip? Wait a few months.

If there was any doubt that the High Roller observation wheel was being built, Caesars Entertainment wants it put to rest right now.

On Wednesday, officials with The Linq project met with local media to chat all things wheel, and not much else.

The 550-foot wheel that will be the centerpiece of The Linq is taking shape adjacent to the Las Vegas Monorail line in the Imperial Palace’s backyard. Construction of the steel platform is under way, with four bases for the wheel’s legs already in place.

“This is exciting for us to get to this point,” said David Codiga, executive project director for The Linq.

The structure is 9 feet taller than the Singapore Flyer and 107 feet taller than the London Eye. With 28 enclosed, transparent spherical cabins that hold as many as 40 passengers each, the wheel will be able to transport up to 2,240 passengers per hour. It will take 30 minutes to make one revolution, at a cost of about $25 per person.

The construction site for the other observation wheel planned for the city, SkyVue, also has seen some action. Two concrete supports have been erected, and developer Howard Bulloch has said he is moving forward on the $300 million project, which is planned for the south end of the Strip across from Mandalay Bay. That wheel’s 32 gondolas, holding 25 people each, would rotate perpendicular to the Strip.

“SkyVue’s construction is moving full steam ahead and continues to make progress on a daily basis,” Bulloch said in a statement Wednesday obtained by The Associated Press.

Company officials said the 500-foot SkyVue is scheduled for a Dec. 31, 2013, opening. The concrete supports, which will stand as high as the Tropicana, should be completed within 30 days.

When asked about that other wheel, Codiga bristled a little, then recovered by saying that 20.4 million people pass The Linq site each year, so he’s not worried about SkyVue.

As for the rest of the plans for The Linq, project executives were mum on most everything. However, Jon Gray, vice president and general manager of The Linq, said the project’s retail space is 72 percent leased. The 35 or so individual businesses in the outdoor experience will cover more than 200,000 square feet of gross leasable area and are planned to appeal to the 21-46 age group.

The Imperial Palace, which will be renamed and upgraded as the project moves along, could ultimately be named 3535 or The Quad. Caesars Entertainment is confirming neither. Both 3535, which is the Imperial Palace’s address, and The Quad were trademarked recently by Caesars Entertainment .

Caesars estimates it will employ 3,000 construction workers and create about 1,500 permanent jobs when the project opens next year. The $550 million outdoor retail, dining and entertainment district is patterned after The Grove in Los Angeles. A third of the project budget is devoted to the High Roller.

Arup Engineering is the firm behind the wheel’s structural plan. Arup has worked on the Sydney Opera House, the Portland Aerial Tram, the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, the National Assembly for Wales and the Singapore Flyer.

Once constructed, the wheel’s midpoint will come up to the top of the Flamingo. Its diameter will be 520 feet. All of the larger-than-life wheel components are being made elsewhere - Germany, China, Japan and Italy - for assembly here.

The wheel is designed to withstand 50 years of rotation-induced fatigue that comes with bearing the weight of passengers and operating in the desert heat.

The 225-square-foot cabins rotate on bearings to always remain upright, at a speed of about one foot per second. Otherwise, as passengers reach the top of the wheel, they would be staring at the Strip upside down.

Codiga said the cabins can be rented for private parties, and customers can ask to bring in outside items such as a portable bar or a pulpit for weddings.

“I’d love to imagine a Valentine’s Day when all of the cabins have weddings going on in them simultaneously,” Codiga said.

The 50,000-square-foot wheel building where riders will board will provide shelter for those waiting in line.

Beverages and souvenir photos will be sold on the second level. Guests board the wheel on the third floor, the fourth will be used for service equipment, and the fifth will function as private party space.

Randy Printz, principal of Themed Development Management and the wheel project manager, has worked on projects such as the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland and the Amazing Spiderman at Universal Studios.

He said the High Roller is the most complicated.

“This is the cutting edge right now,” Printz said.

Caesars Entertainment recently received the Amusement and Transportation System permit from Clark County, allowing project officials to construct all elements of the High Roller.

Before the permit can be issued, operators must document and demonstrate strict national standards for design, construction, maintenance, operation, testing and inspections as outlined by Clark County ordinance.

Contact reporter Laura Carroll at lcarroll@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4588.

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