Tuesday, April 20, 2010 | 7:30 p.m.
- Stratosphere’s new SkyJump: Fall 855 feet for $100 (1-8-2010)
- New thrill ride planned atop Stratosphere (12-17-2009)
The first step is always the hardest — especially when it’s from 855 feet up.
With their toes dangling over the edge and the Las Vegas Strip staring up at them, thrill-seekers took the first jumps from the top of the Stratosphere's newest attraction, the SkyJump.
Some jumpers screamed all 855 feet, but others were unfazed by the free fall, like 75-year-old Ruby Malalay.
“I don’t get nervous for very much,” Malalay said confidently after her jump.
For Malalay, a longtime Stratosphere Tower employee, this was her third time trying out SkyJump, and it probably won’t be her last. The adrenaline junkie said she’s ridden the Stratosphere’s Big Shot ride more than 6,000 times, sometimes 20 times a day.
At not even 5 feet tall, Malalay’s arm span can’t reach the railings on either side of the jump platform. She needs someone to hold her in place, especially if the wind picks up.
The Stratosphere celebrated the grand opening of its latest thrill ride Tuesday morning, picking up a place in Guinness Book of World Records.
The hotel-casino was presented with the record for world’s longest commercial decelerator jump. The only other SkyJump in the world is at Auckland, New Zealand’s, Sky Tower, where the fall is 627 feet.
Iraq War veteran Air Force Master Sgt. Darryl LeBouef was the first to jump Tuesday morning, also earning his spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.
His words after hitting the ground: “That was awesome.”
Although the attraction may look like a bungee jump from afar, it’s not. With the jumper attached by a cable from both sides, the jump is similar to a vertical zip line and is controlled from start to finish.
Before heading up to the 108th floor of the Stratosphere Tower, the jumper is suited up in a jump suit and harness. They’re taken up to the tower, in what might be the longest elevator ride of their lives only to come back down a few minutes later.
The jumper is checked multiple times by safety professionals before being led to the edge of the platform. It isn’t until they are on the platform — 855 feet above the landing spot — that they are hooked to a cable attached to a “descender machine.”
The machine lets out the cable as the jumper steps off the platform, controlling the speed at 40 mph. Just before hitting the landing pad, the jumper is slowed down for a controlled landing.
“It’s really not about the speed. The speed is actually nice because you get a chance to look around but you still feel like you are falling,” American Casino and Entertainment Properties President Frank Riolo said.
Riolo said he’s done the jump six times already. He was hooked after the first time.
“As soon as I landed the first time, I was up in the elevator going again,” Riolo said.
Riolo said property executives saw the SkyJump on the Internet about a year ago and knew it was something they wanted to bring to the Stratosphere. The entire building and training process took about three months, Riolo said.
The price to jump starts at $99, but jumpers can upgrade the package to include video footage of the experience. Riolo said the attraction is priced right compared to similar jumps around the world. The jump in New Zealand starts at $138.
For those looking to take the plunge, be sure you’re fully committed. There’s no cash refund. If you get to the platform and chicken out, you’ll be given a voucher for another time. The second time you bail, there’s no third chance.
“Its one of those things where you are overcoming a primal fear. When you get up top and you look over the edge of that platform, it really is intimidating,” Riolo said. “It’s that fear of stepping into nothing and trusting that someone’s got you.”
“It’s not the fall. It’s the jump,” he said. “It’s taking that first step.”