After temporary stall, SkyVue wheel back in motion

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

SkyVue Observation Wheel

The foundation for the SkyVue observation wheel across from Mandalay Bay is poured Thursday, March 1, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Skyvue project

An artist's rendering of the Skyvue complex near Mandalay Bay on the Las Vegas Strip. Launch slideshow »

While it may seem like work on the SkyVue has stalled, parts for the new Strip observation wheel are being made and assembled in factories around the world, the developer said Friday.

Construction at the site, across from Mandalay Bay, did stop temporarily for 45 days while developer Howard Bulloch got financing in order. Subcontractors awaiting payment had filed several liens against SkyVue.

But by Thursday, 11 companies filed motions to have the liens discharged. That allows Bulloch to complete financing for the project, he said.

"We had to create a lien-free, insurable property," Bulloch said. "We have satisfied this requirement."

Meanwhile, wheel bearings, yokes, axles and electrical rotators are being made thousands of miles away from the construction site in factories in Germany, Belgium and Arizona. Parts are scheduled to arrive in Las Vegas as early as May, about nine months later than originally anticipated.

Bulloch outlined the new schedule for the 500-foot wheel:

Two 12-foot, 26,400-pound bearings will ship this month from a German manufacturer that makes ball bearings for the automotive and aerospace industries. The parts will be sent to a machine facility in Kingman, Ariz.

The fabricator in Arizona has been working on yokes for the main wheel axle. When the bearings arrive, the company will install them along with seals and lubrication systems to finish the piece.

Two heavy equipment transporters will bring the 350,000-pound units to Las Vegas, a 400-mile trip that will take two days to complete.

The power to rotate the wheel comes from two large conduit rings. Those are being made in Belgium. If laid end to end, the copper rings would stretch three miles.

A crane will hoist the 350-ton main wheel axle to the top of concrete columns. Then the steel wheel structure will be built. Bulloch said he hopes that begins this summer.

Bulloch said he continues to receive questions about why the SkyVue construction looks so different from construction at the High Roller, a 550-foot observation wheel being built down the street by Caesars Entertainment. It's a matter of materials, Bulloch said.

"SkyVue is a steel wheel while the other is a cable wheel," he said. "This is a major difference that results in a totally opposite approach to construction."

The steel in SkyVue will support 50,000-square-foot LED screens that Bulloch said will be the largest in the world. They will show live concerts, sporting events and ads.

Like the High Roller, Skyvue plans to offer an entertainment and retail corridor surrounding its base.

Bulloch remains convinced that Las Vegas can support two massive wheels.

"Our ridership study correlated the comparison with the observation decks in New York City," he said. "They have the Empire State Building, the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center and the previous World Trade Center — now the Freedom Tower. And they are in the process of adding an observation wheel themselves."

Bulloch said the Empire State Building draws the most people, about 4 million a year. New York's Ferris wheel, which at 650 feet will be the largest, is expected to draw 4.5 million visitors.

"What this shows us is that spectacular views in iconic and beautiful cities are very much in demand, and Las Vegas will be no different," Bulloch said. "We will have two wheels offering very different experiences and views."

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  1. Of course the developer claims things are still on track - he has to do that to pursue and retain financing. I remain skeptical. For example, has any investigative journalism been done to confirm the developer's claims about the parts that are being fabricated? Do suppliers support his time line claims? Keep in mind this developer has a history of misrepresenting what's happening on his projects.

  2. It's so easy to lob insults at developers who take risks making this city grow. Who else invested capital and reputation to create a magnificent world class destination exhibit in the midst of a recession? Certainly not the critics. We should applaud brilliant men and women who make things happen for the better rather than sit on the sidelines smirking and hoping they fail.

  3. Well said JanG.

  4. Kudos to the developers for taking this risk, but I can't see any investors taking the risk to compete with one of the largest casino companies in Vegas. I just don't see the ROI with two wheels in motion.

  5. It's disappointing to hear that foreign suppliers are being used.