Last gasp for tower ride?

Jun 4, 2002 1:55 PM

The Stratosphere this week will try again to win approval of a towering roller coaster.

But City Council members appear no more thrilled about it than they were nearly a year ago when the idea was unveiled.

"The neighbors aren’t satisfied with it,’’ Councilman Gary Reese told GamingToday. "(The Stratosphere) has had enough time.’’

After months of meetings and negotiations, the Carl Icahn resort proposed shortening and slowing the ride. But residents still object to the concept of a coaster running down the side of the tower and speeding across Las Vegas Boulevard.

Stratosphere officials say the project, estimated to cost $20 million, will make or break their plans for a $100 million upgrade of the property. Attorney John Moran Jr., representing the resort, said last month that work on the master plan hinged on approval of the ride.

City planners have consistently supported the proposal on technical grounds but planning commissioners deadlocked 2-2 over the latest version. That’s tantamount to a denial, and the project faces long odds at the City Council on Wednesday.

Neither Mayor Oscar Goodman nor any other council members have indicated any desire to buck staunch neighborhood opposition. And Reese, citing studies linking heart attacks and thrill rides, remains concerned that the roller coaster could even be a public safety problem.

"I know money is important, but how do you put a pricetag on life?’’ asks Reese, who represents the downtown area. "Why would we want to shove something down (the neighbors’) throats?’’

Stratosphere officials declined to comment on the situation. Earlier this year, Icahn CEO Richard Bown said Stratosphere would modify its plans ”” not scrap them.

"After meeting with the neighbors, the Stratosphere performed analysis and engineering design work to alleviate some of the concerns,’’ he stated. "After considerable effort and expense, it was determined that structural considerations and fire safety issues ruled out relocating the proposed amusement attraction. We reviewed many other viable options before reverting to the original concept.’’

The revised design has the same concept of the original submitted in August 2001. The new design has a planned height of 510 feet, downsized 31 percent from the original 740 feet. The attraction will still drop riders across Las ­­Vegas Boulevard, but the tower structure in the lot across the street now has a planned height of 325 feet, reduced from the original 416 feet. The length of the attraction is now 402 feet, shortened from the original 529 feet. The new design brings the attraction 127 feet closer to the Stratosphere Tower. The new design dimensions will reduce the speed of the attraction from 120 mph to 93 mph.