Caesars gets key permit for Vegas Strip wheel

Caesars Entertainment Corp. announced Wednesday that it obtained a key county permit to build the world's tallest observation wheel in a more than half-billion dollar retail, dining and entertainment complex it is developing on the Las Vegas Strip.

The Ferris-style wheel, dubbed the High Roller, is expected to stand 550 feet tall. It is the centerpiece of a planned $550 million development, dubbed LINQ, expected to open next year between the company's Harrah's Las Vegas, Imperial Palace and Flamingo Las Vegas casinos.

The height would eclipse the nearly 443-foot London Eye, which opened in 1999, and the 541-foot Singapore Flyer, which opened in 2008. Both were the tallest observation wheels in the world when they opened.

The Caesars project would also be taller than a 500-foot wheel called SkyVue currently under construction about 3 miles south on Las Vegas Boulevard. That wheel is also expected to open in late 2013.

Caesars project chief David Codiga said the amusement and transportation systems permit received Thursday from Clark County showed the High Roller — modeled after the London and Singapore structures — met rigorous national design, construction, maintenance, operation and safety standards.

"We learned from those experiences and we've used a design team with the experience to adapt them to Las Vegas," Codiga told The Associated Press. "This allows us to complete the project."

County spokesman Erik Pappa confirmed Wednesday that Caesars had been granted the permit.

As designed, the wheel is oriented parallel to the casino-lined Strip. It would have 28 air-conditioned bubble-like cabins capable of accommodating 40 people each. At capacity, more than 1,100 people at a time would see broad panoramas of marquee-lit resorts during a 30-minute revolution.

Codiga said Caesars has gotten inquiries already from people interested in weddings in the sky.

Jason Krolicki, project manager for Arup Engineering, said the structure was designed to exceed area seismic, wind and temperature extremes.

Codiga said a final certificate of operation won't be issued until the wheel is built, tested and commissioned.

Support structures are now about 200 feet high for the rival SkyVue wheel, being built by developer Howard Bulloch and Compass Investments across the Strip from the Mandalay Bay resort, near McCarran International Airport.

It is part of a $100 million privately funded development expected to include 50,000-square-foot LED screens and convention space capable of hosting concerts, sporting events and product launches.

Project representatives said Wednesday they expect SkyVue to receive its amusement and transportation systems permit with other county applications

That wheel's 32 gondolas, capable of holding 25 people each, would rotate perpendicular to the Strip.

"SkyVue's construction is moving full steam ahead and continues to make progress on a daily basis," Bulloch said in a statement Wednesday.

"Despite the fact that there may be two observation wheels on the Strip, we are confident in our project and believe that SkyVue will deliver a far superior view and overall experience," he said.