|By Steve Green, Las Vegas
SunMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
July 26, 2012--David Codiga hopes that one day when people see the famous London Eye, they'll think of an even larger observation wheel he's building in Las Vegas.
Codiga, executive project director of the Linq plaza and its 550-foot-high High Roller wheel under construction just off the Las Vegas Strip, said Wednesday that he expects the Linq wheel will redefine Las Vegas the way the 443-foot London Eye has boosted tourism in London.
"It's changed London for good. The London Eye is the symbol of London now," he said. "No offense to Big Ben and Parliament or anything else, but it is the visual symbol of London. It's one of the great tourist attractions of Europe right now."
"I believe the High Roller has every opportunity and will transform this city as its icon. I think it will be a very complementary image for the Las Vegas skyline," Codiga said.
Codiga's experience prior to taking on the High Roller project included developing iconic theme parks and rides such as Universal Orlando Resort and Jurassic Park, but he calls the High Roller the most exciting thing he's done.
"It really is the most tremendous attraction I've ever been involved in," Codiga said Wednesday during a media briefing and tour of the High Roller wheel under construction. "I spent most of my career at Universal Studios. We built theme parks in Japan, Orlando and Los Angeles. We built what we believe are the world's greatest attractions. None of those compare to what we're doing right now. It's really a once-in-a-lifetime shot for me."
The High Roller is part of Caesars Entertainment Corp.'s $550 million the Linq retail, dining and entertainment district under construction and planned to open in late 2013.
As part of Wednesday's presentation, Caesars announced it had received an Amusement and Transportation System permit from Clark County allowing parts of the wheel being fabricated around the world to be assembled at the Linq site.
Executives said the wheel will be twice as high as the Flamingo hotel.
The Linq is being built between the Flamingo and the Imperial Palace. Improvements at those resorts and nearby Harrah's have been planned to integrate them with the Linq.
A competing 500-foot wheel is under construction on the Strip across from Mandalay Bay.
Codiga was asked Wednesday whether the High Roller was designed to be 550 feet so that riders would have a spectacular view of the Las Vegas Strip or Caesars wanted boasting rights to having the largest observation wheel in the world.
"It was designed so it would be the highest and the largest in the world," he said, adding Caesars also wants to create the best entertainment experience among the world's wheels and will install lighting so the wheel stands out in the glittering Strip area.
Besides promoting the fact that construction of the High Roller wheel and the Linq are well under way, Caesars executives on Wednesday talked about development and operational details, including:
--The cost: The actual cost of the High Roller wasn't disclosed, but Codiga said it will amount to about a third of the total cost of the Linq.
--Ride pricing: That hasn't been set, but Codiga suggested it may be in line with the Singapore Flyer wheel's price per ride of about $25.
--Hours and parking: The wheel is likely to operate from about 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Parking will be adjacent to the Linq.
--The experience: Riders will first enter a 50,000-square-foot staging building at the eastern end of the Linq and will then enter one of the wheel's 28-glass enclosed cabins. Each cabin can accommodate up to 40 people and will have climate-control and entertainment systems. Each ride consists of a single rotation that takes about 30 minutes as the 520-foot diameter wheel slowly turns. The idea is to create an experience of floating through space. Adults can bring cocktails and other drinks on board.
--Marketing: Besides selling tickets to walk-up riders, the Linq will market the wheel to groups.
"Caesars Entertainment officials have already received scores of inquiries from soon-to-be brides and grooms interested in hosting nuptials at 550 feet," the company said in a statement.
--Safety: The attraction is designed to withstand strong earthquakes and high winds and would continue operating in windy conditions, though passengers will notice the cabins move a bit with gusts.
--The Linq and the Imperial Palace: Work continues on leasing the Linq's 200,000 square feet of retail, dining and entertainment space, and Caesars already has received letters of intent from tenants planning to sign leases for 76 percent of that space. Caesars, in the meantime, plans to rebrand and rename the Imperial Palace so it's associated with the Linq. Some 20.4 million people pass by the Linq entrance each year, and Caesars expects a strong response to the pedestrian-oriented district from people in the 21-to-46 age range.
(c)2012 the Las Vegas Sun (Las Vegas, Nev.)
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