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World's Largest Ferris Wheel Takes Shape In Las Vegas

The 55-story High Roller, which will be the world's largest Ferris wheel, is scheduled to open in early 2014.
Isaac Brekken
The 55-story High Roller, which will be the world's largest Ferris wheel, is scheduled to open in early 2014.

Las Vegas is adding an eye-catching tourist attraction, in the form of a huge wheel that can take more than 1,000 people on a ride 550 feet into the sky over the city's famed Strip. The main construction of the wheel, called the High Roller, is nearly finished; it is expected to open in early 2014.

"The High Roller will be 100 feet taller than the London Eye, which opened in 2000, 30 feet taller than China's Star of Nanchang, which opened in 2006, and 9 feet taller than the Singapore Flyer, which opened in 2008," The Associated Press reports.

At that size, it would take the High Roller wheel about 30 minutes to take its passengers on one full revolution. The wheel will have 28 cabins, similar to a capsule in a sky tram or gondola, with a maximum occupancy of 40 people. Each cabin will include 300 square feet of glass.

The wheel is being built by Caesars Entertainment Corp. as the centerpiece of a huge new development called The Linq. The company prefers to call the coming attraction an observation wheel, rather than a Ferris wheel.

"It's going to be an icon," Project Director David Codiga tells the AP. "It's going to be a part of your visit to Las Vegas if you ride it or not. It's more or less impossible not to see it if you come here."

Over the past few months, the wheel's ring has taken shape and spokes have been added to it; an outer ring was hoisted into position Monday, NBC reports. Before it opens next year, builders will add the cabins and more than 1,000 LED lights.

Caesars says the development, which is between the Quad and Flamingo casinos, is aimed at "the region's growing Gen X and Gen Y clientele — ages 21 to 46 — whose market share is estimated to grow to 52 percent of Las Vegas visitor spending by 2015."

As local TV channel 8 News Now reported last year, another big wheel could give the High Roller some competition; the builders of that wheel, called the Skyvue, say it will stand at 500 feet.

But that project seems to have stalled, after two massive support columns were put into place. Earlier this year, the Vegas Chatter website declared, "SkyVue Asleep At The Observation Wheel."

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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