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Brian Wargo

SlotZilla putting 11-story zip in Fremont Street Experience

28 November 2012

LAS VEGAS -- Ready to zip through the air like Superman over downtown Las Vegas?

Officials from the Fremont Street Experience are betting tourists want to do just that. Tuesday they announced plans to replace their modest, two-year-old zipline with a giant slot machine that will spit out riders about 120 feet above street level for a longer, faster ride.

The new attraction, called SlotZilla, is scheduled to open in June.

"This attraction is unmistakably Las Vegas," said Jeff Victor, president of the Fremont Street Experience.

SlotZilla will be one of a kind, said Thomas Bruny, director of marketing with the Fremont Street Experience. He said it takes a traditional zipline ride to the next level and marries technology from the theme park industry.

"It will be a new icon for downtown Las Vegas [and] for all of Las Vegas. I can't imagine a 120-foot-tall slot machine in an environment like Fremont Street with riders going above thousands of people," Bruny said.

The existing zipline carries four lines of seated riders from a 70-foot-high platform for an 850-foot ride at speeds exceeding 20 mph. Flightlinez Las Vegas has operated the ride in leased space since 2010 but won't be part of SlotZilla.

Nearly 1 million people have ridden the zipline that runs under the Fremont Street canopy, bringing much-needed visitors to downtown, but the Fremont Street Experience is betting the $11 million Slotzilla will double ridership, or more.

Unlike other ziplines, SlotZilla will have a second launch point at 112 feet with four lines that allow riders to stretch out horizontally, zooming through the air at 35 mph for the 1,700 feet to Main Street.

Designers created a steeper incline that will take riders through the canopy.

"This upper level will take this ride in Vegas to another level," said Mike Teske, director of technical services for Hawaii-based Skyline, a zipline operator that served as a consultant. "You will be lying in the Superman position looking down on the canopy and the cables miss by one foot. It will be a thrill."

The platform itself, tall as a 12-story building, will feature a slot arm moving down and returning upright. The slot machine reels will spin, and two levels of doors will open to disgorge riders when a jackpot is hit, Teske said.

California-based consultant Contour Entertainment created the concept and name for the giant slot machine. Contour President Christopher Brown said Area 51 and Elvis themes were considered, but the classic gaming theme won.

"We wanted to ensure the fundamental focus of what's going on downtown is maintained in this, and the idea of the world's largest slot machine that spits out people instead of money seemed like a great idea," Brown said. "This extraordinary monster of a slot machine is an over-the-top Vegas idea. We kept coming up with other names, but nothing came across as strong and powerful and menacing and imposing as SlotZilla."

Not everyone is ready to fly, however. Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman joked during Tuesday's unveiling that she is excited about the attraction's impact on downtown, but don't ask her to ride it.

"I'm not your first ride," Goodman joked. "Don't even call me for that. I might sacrifice my husband."

Victor said the original zipline was intended as a 30-day promotion, not knowing how many people would ride and whether it would be a fad. But with people waiting in line for more than an hour regardless of the weather, the concept proved a keeper.

Because there is no more width to add more than four lines, the best way to expand capacity and make the project permanent was to go up, officials said. Instead of a temporary platform with a bridge to a parking garage, SlotZilla will have an elevator.

And SlotZilla will take reservations.

The lower portion of the ride will cost $20, the same as on the existing zipline. The upper level will cost $30. Ride both for $40.

Construction is to start in January. The existing zipline was closed Sunday so it can be relocated westward and operate until the new attraction opens in June.

Bruny said revenues from the attraction will cover the $11 million expense. While he predicted high profits, he declined to disclose revenue projections.

The ride is expected to create 150 construction jobs and employ 100 workers.