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Ferris wheel plans still spinning in Vegas

5 August 2011

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The question over competing giant Ferris wheel-type projects on the Strip comes down to who has all their bearings.

At least, that's what developer Howard Bulloch says.

Bulloch, who is behind the Skyvue development on the south end of the Strip across from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, said he has acquired the two giant 23,000-pound bearings needed to operate a 500-foot tall London Eye-style wheel that is the centerpiece of the project. He unveiled one of the bearings back in May, when he announced plans for the $300 million retail and entertainment space.

He brought up the issue of bearings on Thursday, the day after Clark County approved the land use and design for Project Linq, a $500 million complex being developed by Caesars Entertainment between the Flamingo Las Vegas and Imperial Palace Hotel & Casino, that includes a 550-foot Ferris wheel as its centerpiece.

Bulloch didn't know whether Caesars had acquired their bearings.

"The two large bearings take 18 months to manufacture," Bulloch said.

Caesars spokesman Gary Thompson said Thursday that the company is planning to reveal more details about Project Linq during a briefing on Aug. 17, including the technological aspects of constructing the observation wheel, which would be larger than the Singapore Flyer and the London Eye. The wheel's 32 cabins will each carry up to 30 people.

Company officials told Clark County they hoped to start work on Project Linq later this month. The work will employ 3,000 construction workers; when it's complete, it will create 1,500 jobs.

Project Linq will include 326,000 square-feet of retail, dining and entertainment venues, with the wheel being built at the back of the complex toward Audrie Street. Audrie and Ida Avenue would be converted from public to private streets, with parking on adjacent parcels.

Thompson said Caesars expects to finish the project in 2013.

Meanwhile, despite competition from the world's largest gaming company, Bulloch and his Compass Investments are pushing forward with Skyvue, which includes 140,000 square-feet of retail, dining and entertainment.

Bulloch said his project will have the only Ferris wheel directly on the Strip. Skyvue, he said, would offer better views than Project Linq.

But Thompson said Caesars has fully financed Project Linq.

Bulloch said he still in the process of lining up financing but has begun clearing his 39-acre parcel, which includes the defunct Happi Inn, a 1950s-era motel. He said he would open Skyvue late next year.

"If you fly in and out of Las Vegas, you won't miss our wheel," Bulloch said of the project, which is adjacent to McCarran International Airport. "That's our marketing."

Project Linq, which will not have a casino, is located in the middle of a hotel-casino area owned by Caesars Entertainment, including the Flamingo, Harrah's Las Vegas Casino & Hotel and Caesars Palace.

As part of Project Linq, new facades will be given to the Imperial Palace and O'Sheas Casino.

During the company's first-quarter earnings conference call in February, Caesars Chairman Gary Loveman said Project Linq was at "the 50-yard line of the city." Loveman said the development would attract customers from neighboring casinos operated by the company and competitors.

"We need a dynamic that will bring (hotel guests) into our neighborhood so that we can entertain them in some capital-efficient way," Loveman said.
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