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County OKs plans for amusement park across from Mandalay Bay

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A rendering of the proposed amusement park across from Mandalay Bay. The plan calls for up seven amusement rides, including a 500-foot “sky wheel.”

Updated Wednesday, March 2, 2011 | 4:21 p.m.

Amusement park

KSNV coverage of proposed amusement park on Las Vegas Strip, March 2, 2011.

Click to enlarge photo

Developers have proposed plans for an amusement park on this 9.6-acre site across from Mandalay Bay. The site is the location of the former Cloud Nine balloon, which closed late last year. Balloon operators were marking their inaugural flight in this Oct. 8, 2009, photo.

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Clark County commissioners on Wednesday unanimously supported a proposed amusement park on the Las Vegas Strip.

Developers hope to build an entertainment and retail district that would include amusement rides on a 9.6-acre site across from Mandalay Bay. Commissioners, sitting as the county Zoning Commission, gave their approval for the project during their regular meeting Wednesday.

The proposal was submitted by Desert Land LLC and Desert Oasis Investments LLC, both of which are controlled by Las Vegas real estate developers David Gaffin and Howard Bulloch. The developers own more than 30 acres across from Mandalay Bay, including the land where the amusement park would be built.

Each county commissioner commended the developers for proposing a unique idea and for trying to bring a family-friendly attraction to the Strip.

“I commend you for thinking like this and trying to provide a venue that will not only bring people from out-of-state, but from out of the country,” County Commission Chairwoman Susan Brager told the developers.

The plan calls for up to seven amusement rides including a 500-foot “sky wheel,” similar to the London Eye, which the developers' attorney, Ed Garcia, called one of the most popular tourist attractions in London.

The wheel would carry 40, 12-by-18-foot gondolas that could accommodate between 20 and 25 guests each. Developers said the gondolas would be offered in several different configurations and could include dining.

The plan also calls for up to six additional amusement rides surrounding the wheel, which developers didn't detail during Wednesday’s meeting.

Developers plan to build the project in two phases with a temporary 200-foot “sky wheel” in the first phase, along with six other amusement rides. Garcia told the commission this is so they could get the project up and running, since the permanent 500-foot wheel would take about 18 months to construct.

Once the 500-foot wheel is constructed, the 200-foot wheel would be removed, along with two other rides to create space for the larger wheel.

Also included in Phase Two, developers hope to build a 21,000-square-foot convention center and a 139,500-square-foot venue for retail, restaurants and live entertainment.

“We know Las Vegas needs a new exciting development, and that’s why we are willing to do this on our very valuable Strip land,” Bulloch told the commissioners.

Bulloch and Gaffin, along with other investors, first acquired land across from Mandalay Bay in 2001. The developers had planned to build a resort development on the land called World Port Resorts that was expected to have a London theme.

A portion of the land was most recently used as the site for the Cloud Nine helium balloon ride, which closed late last year. The land was leased to Cloud Nine Entertainment to operate the ride.

Cloud Nine opened in October 2009 as the world's largest helium-filled, land-tethered balloon, but was plagued with wind issues from the start.

Denny Weddle, a spokesman for the developers, said no groundbreaking date is set, but the project would take about one year of construction. He wouldn’t comment on an estimated cost.

Weddle said the project would staff about 200 construction workers and have about 200 permanent positions once the facility is open.

Bulloch also told commissioners that with the additional land his company owns near the site, there is the potential to add a rollercoaster and other attractions. Those are not included in the current plan.

The commission expressed some concerns about getting foot traffic to the facility, but Bulloch said they would be willing to work with neighboring properties such as Luxor and Mandalay Bay to build a pedestrian walkway across the Strip.

Several Strip casinos such as Circus Circus, New York-New York and Sahara already have amusement rides, but the proposed amusement park could have even more competition. Caesars Entertainment announced last week it is seeking $400 million in financing to complete a retail and entertainment district between the Flamingo and O’Shea's. The project would also include a “sky wheel,” which Caesars Entertainment CEO Gary Loveman also described as an attraction similar to the London Eye. No groundbreaking date was announced.

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  1. Eight Rides and a building large enough for an Arcade = An Amusement Park in Las Vegas. Has anyone traveled to Florida and seen what a Real Amusement Park looks like. This is a roadside Carnival and they usually stay in town for a week before they wear out their welcome.

  2. Good luck to them. Anything new is good for Vegas at this time. It is not Disney but they are using less then 10 acres, not 100's of acres.

    Hope they do well.

  3. I have an idea that would instantly solve all of Las Vegas' financial problems and would create a huge amount of profit for some outside corporation. This idea is so good, I am going to copyright it and call it the "TheKash idea". Who knows, I might even hire Righthaven to defend my copyright.

    Any way, my idea is this: First the state legislature would pick an area of about 10 miles x 10 miles (100 square miles) just outside of Las Vegas, and mandate this area to be a "No Gambling" area where gambling would be illegal. Next, a large amusement park company, such as Disney would drop their aversion to the Las Vegas area because there is now a big adjacent area where there would be no gambling, and then build a big (and I mean big) amusement park. Las Vegas would now be both adult and family oriented at the same time, large numbers of people would come, everyone would make money, and I would be famous for proposing this idea.

  4. No pedestrian over pass.

  5. Is this a joke? How can people with this much money to invest be so delusional?

  6. What a stupid idea. Carny rides in 110 degree heat along with Carny food. I'd like to get the barf bag concession.

  7. Whaaaaaat!? This will truly be a dog and pony show. BTW... The investors and tax payers are sure to fleeced on this one.

  8. So there will be two competing sky wheels, one at the end of the Harrah's walkway, and this one.

  9. I previously thought it was impossible for anyone to be this stupid. David Gaffin and Howard Bulloch are obviously on a drug called Charlie Sheen.

  10. I'm still waiting for that water park that was supposed to be built near The M Resort.

  11. Nearly all minimum wage jobs. Taxes for the State will never happen because of all the write-offs, just money for the owners siphoned off for other places. Another liability for the Nevada Taxpayer.

  12. Is it hotter in Vegas that Orlando's humidity in the summer? I think not. These guys have a good idea that will employ hundreds in the construction phase and hundreds more if the venture is successful. Its their money folks, somebody please explain why the taxpayer could lose on this deal.

  13. Didn't we already have an amusement park that closed in the '90s, at the MGM Grand?

  14. Stupidity gone to seed for both the city for approving it and the guy that proposed this.

  15. So here's what I don't understand. It's alright to consider and approve placing this 500 foot ferris wheel within about 3000 feet of runway 25L/7R, and say that is within in a safe range of the airport and will not cause any possible flight pattern safety risks. However, a talked about second level to Interstate 15... let me rephrase that, an "overcrowded, completely congested Interstate 15" is considered a huge safety factor to the flight pattern of McCarran. Wow, I would sure like to know what type of factors the commissioners are looking at through their highball and martini glasses when they came up with this approval plan.

  16. STOP THIS NONSENE. IT WILL NOT GET OFF THE GROUND.
    IT'S A PR JOB.

  17. If a private investor wants to put up his time and money for this project. Bless them. My 2 cents would be to do just the Ferris Wheel with some great views. I could see a lot of people doing that, but I would keep it really simple.