Friday, May 3, 1996 | 11:59 a.m.
Long lines are causing short tempers among a few Stratosphere Tower visitors, but most say their trip was well worth the wait.
Thousands of visitors have flocked to the $550 million gaming and entertainment complex since it opened Monday night, nearly all of them hoping for a trip to the top of its 1,149-foot tower.
As might be expected, demand-fed delays at restaurants, thrill rides and observation decks have frayed a few nerves.
"We went up this morning and asked for directions to the Top of the World Restaurant, but it was mass confusion," said John Mesce, a Las Vegas resident since 1949.
"When we finally got directed to the right line, we were told the restaurant would be at least a half hour late in opening. And the employees we talked to weren't very polite about it."
Mesce left without eating, but not before sampling the scenery from high above the Strip. "I'll say one thing: The view was beautiful."
Two Henderson residents, Rita Yeager and Sandy Stover, had similar comments.
"This is really a beautiful place, but we may have come too soon because things weren't really organized," said Yeager.
"The right hand doesn't seem to know what the left is doing," said Stover, adding that tower employes weren't clear about how to direct visitors to the right elevators for different attractions. "But it's brand new and given a little time, I'm sure they'll get organized."
John Burkett of Atlanta was more interested in the view from the tower than in eating there.
"It was fabulous, just fabulous," he said. "In Georgia, you can go up to the top of Storm Mountain and look out, but it's usually really hazy. Here, it's like you can see forever."
Burkett's son Bobby agreed, saying, "It's really, really a beautiful sight."
Jessie McCann hadn't seen the view from the tower yet, but she was one of the first to see its potential. She was photographing her name on the "Wall of Fame," a list of the thousands of investors who helped finance construction of the tower in the early days of its construction, before going on a trip to the top.
"It sounded like a good idea when I first heard about it," said the Myrtle Beach, S.C., resident who visits Las Vegas three times a year. "I more than got my money back, so it was well worth the effort."
If you want to avoid long lines for the tower, Stratosphere officials said, don't go during the busiest periods of the day -- mid-afternoon and mid-evening.
"The worst time is from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.," said Renee Roberts, public relations coordinator.
While there have been a few glitches in tower operations, the casino has run smoothly despite heavier-than-expected business.
"We thought there'd be fewer people here, but it's been very busy so far," Roberts said. Stratosphere officials expect the resort "to be swamped this weekend," the first the new resort will be opened, she said.
Monday's opening celebration was marred by smoke from a fireworks display set off from outside observation areas of the pod. Smoke drifted inside the pod through doors left partially ajar to accommodate television camera cables.
Emergency systems kicked in, causing elevators to stop operating for a short period until exhaust systems eliminated the smoke. Some tower visitors had to wait 30 minutes before being able to get back to the main casino.
Stratosphere officials said they haven't changed any regular procedures as a result of the incident, although they won't repeat the special circumstances that were in place during the fireworks display.