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August 2, 2015

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A third observation wheel proposed for the Strip? Really?

Image

Caesars Entertainment

Round and round: An artist’s rendering of the High Roller observation wheel.

Observation Wheels

If all goes according to plan, two giant observation wheels will dot the Las Vegas skyline. These artist renderings show the two wheels. At left, Caesars Entertainment is planning to erect one near O'Sheas as part of Project Linq. (The rendering is from 2009, when Caesars was known as Harrahs Entertainment.) At right is the Skyvue Las Vegas Super Wheel project, which has already broken ground at a site near Mandalay Bay. Launch slideshow »

As she prepared to vote on a zoning commission item Wednesday morning, Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani asked the presenter an innocuous final question.

“What is the London Thrill? It’s not another Ferris wheel is it?” she said with a hint of disdain in her voice.

Standing in front of the podium, Eric Smithers, who represents the site’s owners, responded with a sheepish laugh: “It’s an observation wheel.”

“But it’s more than just that,” he quickly followed. “That’s one component of an entire park.”

Indeed, a third observation wheel could be coming to the Las Vegas Strip, joining the under-construction 500-foot tall wheel near Mandalay Bay and the 550-foot tall wheel at Caesars Entertainment’s Linq project, which continues to grow skyward behind the Quad casino.

The third wheel would be built on the east side of Las Vegas Boulevard south of Harmon Avenue, in a spot currently occupied by parking and several retail stores, including a McDonald’s, a liquor store and a Tasti D-Lite.

The wheel would be part of a “London-themed thrill park,” and the project would cost about $50 million, according to testimony given to commissioners by Smithers and his attorney.

After the hearing, Smithers declined to reveal further details about the project. Any plans for an observation wheel would have to first be approved by the county.

Giunchigliani seemed skeptical of the viability of three observation wheels on the Strip.

“We’ve got to get past this stuff where someone comes in and says ‘I’ve got an idea du jour and we have to have four stadiums competing with each other and four of these and three of these,’” she said.

Details about the attraction were revealed as part of a request to allow temporary outdoor retail structures at the site until construction begins.

Smithers said the owner has acquired a parcel stretching from the Smith & Wollensky’s to the corner of Harmon Avenue and plan to make improvements to the entire area.

The commission voted to allow the developer to put five retail structures in the parking lot in front of the existing building for up to six months.

Commissioner Mary Beth Scow, whose district covers the southern part of the Strip, said she’s normally opposed to outdoor retail sales because they impede traffic and create clutter. But she said she voted to approve Smithers’ request because of future plans at the site.

“The fact that it’s a new owner and that you’re really going to do something wonderful on this property, we want to reward good behavior,” Scow said.

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