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The Linq's Gamble On The High Roller Wheel

July 25, 2012 at 8:45 PM | by | ()

We've been keeping you up-to-date with all the comings and goings of The Linq. You know, that mammoth open-air project that wrecked O'Shea's and has torn up the area around Imperial Palace.

Shops, restaurants, entertainment. The Linq is a huge transformation that will redefine that section of Las Vegas Boulevard. Or the fifty yard line of The Strip as the Linq folks like to call it. (It does, mentally, feel like the middle.) Well, today we learned a whole bunch about the observation wheel that'll be dominating the skyline (at least over there) and will reside at the tippity-top of the Linq project, just behind the monorail.

Behold, the High Roller, at 550 feet the world's largest observation wheel (according to Caesars, anyways). After months of prepping, planning and very careful safety measures, they've seriously started putting the segments together. On a press tour of the construction site, complete with personal protective equipment (hard hats and goggles!), we were taught how the bits and pieces will come together and where it will all go. Here are some of the basic details and we'll be letting you know more of the nitty-gritty, nuts and bolt data as the project unfolds.

The projected completion date is the end of 2013. It'll burn through $550 million in costs and about 3,000 construction workers. Reading the ultra-high-caliber resumes of the overseers we met kinda makes us believe they'll make the launch date. A number of the team previously worked on The London Eye and The Singapore Flyer mega-wheels. Most of the world's wheel kings are hovering around the High Roller. And, their enthusiasm as the first substantial support sections start to arrive is infectious.

First of all, take a look at this image. We are looking with our backs to the wheel, facing Caesars on The Strip. See that tower on the left? That's the Flamingo. You know, the tower with the Donny & Marie ad on it. The High Roller wheel is twice the height of that tower. Twice. When you are next on The Strip, take a look and think about that.

The construction area in this photo will comprise the open air component of the Linq. The shops and restaurants will be two stories high so you won't really notice the Coliseum in the distance when all is finished. It's a (mostly) open avenue that leads down to the wheel.

The Linq will be home to about 35 tenants and they already have Letters of Intent for about 72% of the spaces. No word on which retail or restaurant anchors will be there, but we'll keep you posted.

This is a worldwide construction jigsaw. The central spindle of the High Roller wheel had to be manufactured in China as U.S. resources couldn't meet the size of the task. Sections will be arriving on boats and trains from Asia and Europe. All carefully timed to be linked together at just the right time. Designers include veterans of theme parks, Disney projects and some of the most extraordinary engineering puzzlers of the last decade. The personnel involved are very impressive and they believe they've taken the notion of an observation wheel to a whole new level. Nothing blocking the view. A super smooth ride. And bonus, you get to see The Strip.

Construction for the wheel will occur on the west side of the site. And, for The Linq, to the east. Logistically, its already been carefully scheduled. It has to be. They don't have enough room for gigantor wheel parts and, say, McDonald's signs hanging around in the sun waiting to be fixed, mounted and elevated.

The entrance to step into your revolving cabin will be on the third floor of the High Roller building. That's the height of the just created steel level you see in this photograph. You'll enter the building and encounter some sort of introduction slash entertainment while you wait. There's also a bar if you need a bracer for the height.

It will take about thirty minutes from arrival to stepping into your cabin. An entire revolution takes another thirty minutes. On each turn, 1,120 people will join you as you spin. 2,240 customers an hour. Everything about this is big. They threw out 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. as possible opening hours. It won't be 24 hours, but you'll have plenty of opportunities to ride.

These spherical pods, or more officially, cabins, revolve themselves as the wheel revolves. Does that makes sense? It's not like a Ferris wheel where the capsules hang down and gravity has a hand in keeping you from swinging back and forth. These cabins rotate as they traverse the outside of the big wheel, not the usual hanging inside the wheel with struts blocking your view.

Inside, you'll find plentiful TV screens and the cabin will be encased in imported Italian glass, manufactured just outside of Venice. Forty people could fit in each of these cabins. The aim is for lots of glass and a smooth ride so each customer gets the feeling "of floating through space" while the whole wheel turns at one foot per second. It never actually stops moving unless it absolutely has to so you will be stepping onto a moving cabin. We guess that it's like stepping onto a slow moving escalator. London Eye visitors will already know what it's like. Please let us know what your experience was like.

You can arrive at the High Roller via the monorail which will still drop you off at the Imperial Palace stop. Or, you can walk through the Linq's boulevard. Or, just let a taxi drop you off at a new area to be created at the rear of IP.

Tickets are not yet priced, but taking the London Eye into consideration, about $25 was not considered out of the question. It's too early to say.

No gambling is allowed while you complete a loop, but you can bring in your drinks from the lounge bar in the ticketing area. If you book the cabin for a private party they'll wheel in a drinks cart. And, the cart doubles up as podium for wedding ceremonies! They are thinking that on Valentine's Day, they'll stack up the cabins with multiple weddings in one turn. If bigger events are your thing, the fifth floor of the Wheel building will double as a hospitality area. Everything appears to be meticulously thought out. All that is left is to put the pieces together. Easy, right? They have almost a year and a half to do it. We'll keep an eye on their progress.

Archived Comments:

Looks Impressive

looks good, and could be a really good ride if the vies is not obstructed. having been on the London Eye - it's a bit daunting at first, knowing that the pod is not goint to stop - but its not that bad really.


Will there be a bathroom in each pod?


Nope, no bathroom so if you gotta go, you gotta hold it. (Or, preplan with Depends.)

So Vegas!

I was a bit sceptical at first, but I'm warming to it.

I'm surprised they decided to keep Imperial Palace, but I guess the project was expensive enough and a new casino would have tipped it into 'not economic'.

I like the fact that it's brash/glitzy/trashy - that's what Vegas is all about! So different from the 'business park' that is City Center - which can only be a good thing IMHO.

Stepping on the London Eye is easy, yes it's moving (slowly), but if you can use an escalator you'll be fine.