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Rio to roll with 600-ft.
‘observation wheel’

Dec 30, 2003 8:59 AM

The Rio hotel-casino will break ground in a few weeks on a 600-foot tall ”˜observation wheel,’ a Ferris wheel-like entertainment venue that will rotate high in the sky above the hotel

The project will cost about $80 million and will be built by Las Vegas-based Voyager Entertainment. When completed in July 2005, the wheel will be similar to the London Eye in Great Britain, which stands 450 feet tall overlooking the river Thames.

Included in the project is an 80,000-square-foot, three-story complex of retail shops, restaurants and specialty shops.

There will also be a nightclub and restaurant at the 300-foot hub level, along with luxury sky boxes.

Standing about 150 feet taller than the Rio’s existing Masquerade tower, the wheel attraction will feature 30 "Orbitor" cabins and a 20,000-square-foot nightclub.

The project is earmarked for the southeast portion of the Rio’s parking lot.

"The Observation Wheel has enormous potential to boost tourism in Las Vegas," said Tom Jenkin, president of Harrah’s Western Division. "Because the wheel will be situated off Strip, there will be an unparalleled panoramic view of the city in a private, luxurious environment.

"This will be a one-of-a-kind experience," Jenkin said, adding that the average ticket price for a ride on the Observation Wheel will be $18, and it is expected to run from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m., daily .

Each of the Orbitor cabins will accommodate at least 20 passengers and contain its own restrooms and fully-stocked bar and galley. The wheel will make one revolution every 27 minutes.

Jenkin said the cabins may be booked for a variety of activities and celebrations, including wedding parties, office retreats, corporate meetings and banquets.

The cabins will be staffed with an on board "navigator," part entertainer and part steward, who will deliver personalized service to every passenger.

Rio officials estimated the new attraction will draw at least 2 million new visitors to its West Flamingo property, though the observation wheel can accommodate up to 7 million passengers yearly.

The Rio’s new observation wheel will be the first in the U.S. Other ones are being planned in Dallas and New York City.