Friday, Oct. 9, 2009 | 1:55 a.m.
If You Go
- What: Cloud Nine helium balloon
- When: Daily, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.
- Where: Across from Mandalay Bay
- Tickets: Daytime prices: Adults, $22.50; Children, $17.50. Evening prices: Adults, $27.50, Children, $22.50
The Las Vegas Strip got a new skyline attraction Thursday.
Cloud Nine, the world’s largest helium-filled, land-tethered balloon, opened for business after an opening ceremony for VIPs and the news media. Taking flight across from Mandalay Bay, the balloon can bring up to 30 guests nearly 500 feet above the Strip.
The balloon is seven stories wide and 11 stories tall and contains 210,000 cubic feet of helium. It’s tethered to the ground by a pulley system.
The man behind bringing the balloon to Las Vegas is Cloud Nine Entertainment founder and CEO Kevin Michaels. After seeing a similar helium balloon at the America’s Cup yacht race in Valencia, Spain, Michaels decided to launch the idea in Las Vegas.
“It’s the entertainment capital of the world,” Michaels said. “We’ve got 40 million people that come here on an annual basis. I thought it was a great opportunity for the visitors and the 2 million locals, alike.”
Michaels said with development plans, getting the county’s approval and building the balloon, the process to get Cloud Nine’s balloon off the ground took more than two years.
Vegas.com tried a similar venture with a passenger blimp a decade ago but ended the blimp’s contract a year later because of a lack of passengers. Unlike the Vegas.com blimp, the Cloud Nine balloon is stationary and less expensive for riders. (Vegas.com is owned by the Greenspun family and is a sister company of the Sun.)
Prices run from $22.50 to $27.50 for adults, depending on the time of day, and flights typically last 10 to 12 minutes. Cloud Nine also runs family packages and is planning to introduce locals, military and teacher discounts in the coming weeks.
“We’ve really been mindful to make it appropriate for the economic times we live in today,” Michaels said.
Hotels like Paris Las Vegas and the Stratosphere also market 360-degree views of Las Vegas. The Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas is 460 feet high and charges $10 for admission during the day and $15 at night. The observation deck at the Stratosphere more than doubles the height of the Cloud Nine balloon at 1,149 feet and charges $16.
Michaels said he hopes to start a program in Clark County schools for homerooms to compete against each other for the highest GPA with the winner getting a balloon ride. Bert Rhine, Michaels’ business partner and Cloud Nine’s director of sales and marketing, said the company also plans to launch a fundraising effort for schools.
“We’re doing it because Cloud Nine supports, pardon the pun, higher education,” Michaels said.
With its visibility on the Strip, the Cloud Nine balloon carries a branding opportunity. Rhine said the company has been in contact with Fortune 500 companies looking to advertise on the balloon.
“We’ve had a great deal of interest from a number of sponsors but they wanted to see it up and flying first,” Rhine said.
The cost for advertising on the balloon will be about $100,000 a month, similar to the price of building wraps in Las Vegas, Rhine said.
The area where the balloon is docked includes a ticketing building, picnic tables, a garden area with wind sculptures and plaques with information on famous aviators. Cloud Nine is also planning to start a food and beverage service for visitors.
For now, the Cloud Nine Entertainment balloon is unique to Las Vegas but Michaels said the company plans to expand to California, Hawaii, Mexico and Europe.