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Foundation poured for towering wheel near Mandalay Bay

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Leila Navidi

Construction workers pour the foundation for the SkyVue observation wheel across the Strip from Mandalay Bay on Thursday, March 1, 2012.

Updated Thursday, March 1, 2012 | 3:14 p.m.

VEGAS INC: Sky Vue Development

On Thursday the foundation is scheduled to be poured on what's being billed as the largest observation wheel in the Western hemisphere. Soaring 500 feet in the air and scheduled to open in July 2013, Sky Vue is slated to be the first component of an amusement park across the street from the Mandalay Bay.

Skyvue Foundation Pour

Construction workers pour the foundation for the SkyVue observation wheel across the Las Vegas Strip from the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas on Thursday, March 1, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Noise from 130 concrete trucks filled the predawn air Thursday as construction workers poured the foundation for the 500-foot SkyVue observation wheel across from Mandalay Bay.

The five-hour process, which began at 2 a.m., sets the stage for building the $200 million project that will change the landscape of the southern Las Vegas Strip.

Developer Howard Bulloch said passersby would see the wheel take shape this summer but the venue won’t open until July 2013.

“We have to build the wheel first before we build the retail building below,” he said.

The retail portion will include seven food-court options, five sit-down restaurants and a dozen stores ranging from clothing outfitters to electronics, Bulloch said. Developers declined to identify the establishments but said they would be recognizable names.

“If (tourists) come from the Midwest, they will know they want to eat here,” Bulloch said, hinting at the restaurants’ price point.

When the wheel is completed, it will be difficult for anyone to miss. The towering structure will feature 32 gondolas that each seat 24 people; a 50,000-square-foot LED sign will project from the wheel’s center.

A 30-minute ride will take visitors 50 feet higher than Mandalay Bay with views facing north on the Strip.

“That’s really what we’re offering to the visiting public — the most spectacular view of the Las Vegas Strip,” Bulloch said.

It won’t be the only view in town, though. Caesars Entertainment Corp. broke ground last year on its own construction site dubbed project “Linq,” which will include a 550-foot observation wheel in an entertainment district between the Imperial Palace and Flamingo resorts. It’s slated to open in the first half of 2013.

Bulloch and co-developer David Gaffin, however, aren’t concerned about the competition rising from the ground up the street.

“We’re directly on the Strip,” Bulloch said. “Everyone flying into and out of Las Vegas will see our wheel.”

Bulloch said he was working with “substantial sources,” which he didn’t identify, to secure financing for the project. He added he was “absolutely confident” the project would be financed. Bulloch and his co-developer are prepared to self-finance several phases of the project until they secure the remaining money, he said.

“That is why we started construction and made this commitment,” he said. “Ours will get financed, and it will get done.”

Admission to ride the SkyVue observation wheel — not to be confused with a carnival Ferris wheel — will be about $25 per person, with discounts for locals and military members, Bulloch said.

The project will employ roughly 700 people during the construction phase, followed by 500 full-time jobs once the venue is operational, said Keith Robertson, an engineering consultant with JKR & Associates.

The developers are “trying to use as many local contractors and subcontractors as possible,” Robertson said.

In the meantime, developers are busy planning future festivities at SkyVue, including a still-under-wraps New Year’s Eve bash.

“There will be special events designed for everything you can think of,” Robertson said.

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