Friday, May 24, 1996 | 11:59 a.m.
Stratosphere officials have delayed their King Kong ride, but they are speeding full steam ahead on expansion plans for the resort.
Chief Executive Officer Lyle Berman announced at a shareholders meeting this week that the design and engineering of the gorilla ride is taking longer than expected.
The concept is for a huge gorilla to mechanically climb the side of the Stratosphere Tower with passengers in the beast's belly.
"It won't open this year as planned," Stratosphere spokesman Tom Bruny said. "Our goal is to ensure it is a great experience as opposed to just an elevator ride in a gorilla."
Bruny said designers are working on motion simulation and special effects for the ride, whose original price tag was $6 million.
Meanwhile, Berman on Wednesday announced phase three plans that will boost the resort on Las Vegas Boulevard north of Sahara Avenue to 4,000 rooms.
Phase two is under way and will be completed by December or January. It will increase the Stratosphere from 1,000 to 2,500 rooms, expand the casino from 100,000 to 118,000 square feet and add a health spa, aquarium and meeting rooms. The gorilla ride is part of phase two.
The second phase also includes a retail mall. Four shops are open today, with plans for 40 by this summer and 80 by November. Among them will be the Rainforest Cafe, featuring a jungle-themed dining atmosphere.
"It's our counterpart to Hard Rock and Planet Hollywood," Bruny said.
Phase three plans call for another 1,500 rooms, a convention complex, a large showroom, another parking garage, time-share condos and another main entrance off Main Street. This phase would be completed by 1998-99.
The parking garage will be where the Sulinda motel now stands, across Las Vegas Boulevard from the Stratosphere. Bruny said a walkway over or under the road is planned.
Berman did not release any specific information on how the resort has done since its April 30 opening. That will come out in quarterly earnings reports, Bruny said.
The Stratosphere, owned by Grand Casinos, did announce previously that 127,000 people went up in the 1,149-foot tower during the first week. Resort officials said that made it the most popular paid attraction in Las Vegas.