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Howard Stutz
 

Caesars Entertainement unveils plans for Linq development

18 August 2011

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Back in the day, The Linq would have been considered an amenity to a multibillion-dollar Strip hotel-casino development.

That was before the bottom dropped out of the Las Vegas economy.

Caesars Entertainment Corp. executives said Wednesday that they agree with assessments from analysts that Las Vegas does not need another hotel-casino at this time.

That theory is the primary driver behind The Linq, a $550 million outdoor retail, dining and entertainment district patterned after The Grove in Los Angeles and anchored by the world's tallest observation wheel.

Executives from Caesars unveiled various aspects and construction plans for The Linq during a briefing in the Pure Nightclub at Caesars Palace.

In addition, the Imperial Palace Hotel & Casino will be renamed, renovated and rethemed as part of the development. The tiny O'Sheas Casino will be demolished and become part of the reconfigured Imperial Palace.

Caesars Entertainment Senior Vice President Jan Jones touted The Linq as the first new Las Vegas development announced since the economy crashed in 2007. It's also the first new construction project on the Strip since The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas opened in December .

Caesars operates 10 Strip-area casinos. Offering new entertainment options and attractions keeps the Strip vibrant for the visitors filling the city's 150,000 hotel rooms, Jones said.

For a brief moment Wednesday, Jones channeled her former job as the two-term mayor of Las Vegas.

"We don't need another big box," Jones said. "Las Vegas needs a new experience. We live here, and we see all the headlines about the economy and unemployment. But to the rest of the world, we're Las Vegas. We're the entertainment capital of the world, and they expect something like Linq from us."

The project will be built along a private street that separates the Flamingo and Imperial Palace starting at the Strip and heading back to Audrie Street and Ida Avenue, which will be converted from public to private streets.

Caesars officials hope The Linq, which will employ 3,000 construction workers at its height in the middle of next year, spurs additional development.

The Linq's centerpiece is the 550-foot observation ("don't call it a Ferris") wheel, dubbed the Las Vegas High Roller. The structure is 9 feet taller than the Singapore Flyer and 107 feet taller than the London Eye. With 28 enclosed, transparent sphere cabins that hold up to 40 passengers each, the wheel can transport an estimated 2,240 passenger per hour. It will take 30 minutes to make one revolution on the wheel.

Caesars' executives they anticipate charging less than $20 per person to ride the observation wheel, and the first riders are expected to board sometime in 2013.

"Our observation wheel will provide a memorable experience soaring over the skyline of Strip," said Gary Miller, Caesars' senior vice president of development.

Other details revealed about The Linq included the following:

  • Miller said The Linq is fully funded by Caesars Entertainment through financing efforts. "The money is in the bank." The Linq will create about 1,500 permanent jobs.

  • The Linq will have 30 to 40 retail, dining and entertainment attractions in a 200,000 square foot open-air marketplace. About 70 percent of the mix will be restaurants and bars.

Paul Kurzawa, chief operating officer of Los Angeles-based Caruso Affiliated, which is developing the retail area, said discussions have taken place with several restaurant operators and retail businesses, all of which would be new to Las Vegas.

"There is a tremendous amount of interest in Las Vegas," Kurzawa said, adding that he didn't believe the company would have any trouble filling the retail space.

  • Construction will bring upgrades to three of Caesars' properties: the Flamingo Las Vegas, Imperial Palace and O'Sheas.

The Flamingo will receive a new pedestrian entrance that connects the casino with The Linq.

The current O'Sheas will demolished, and a new location will be rebuilt about 150 feet to the east within the Imperial Palace. Rick Mazer, who is president of Harrah's Las Vegas Casino & Hotel, Flamingo, Imperial Place, Bill's Gamblin' Hall and Saloon and O'Sheas, said the casino's employees would be folded into the Flamingo.

Meanwhile, the Imperial Palace will be transformed with a new facade, porte cochere, and hotel reception area. The casino will be remodeled.

Mazer said a new name has yet to be determined. The company is leasing the Imperial Palace name, and that lease expires next year.

Caesars, when it was known as Harrah's Entertainment, acquired the Imperial Palace in 2005 for $370 million. It was thought at the time the company would demolish the hotel-casino as part of a redevelopment on the east side of the Strip.

However, the tanking economy forced the company to change plans.

The Linq is not the only planned observation wheel.

Developer Howard Bulloch said earlier this month he's moving forward on his $300 million Skyvue project, which is planned for the south end of the Strip across from Mandalay Bay.

Bulloch said he was still in the process of lining up financing for the development.
Caesars Entertainement unveils plans for Linq development is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.