Tuesday, May 22, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Howard Bulloch can peer over the top of Mandalay Bay from 500 feet above the Strip.
"When you think of the Strip, that's the view people want to see," he said. "That's the attraction Las Vegas has for the rest of the world."
Bulloch was looking out of a helicopter hovering above the southern Strip at dusk Monday evening, across from a parcel of land that he has owned with partner David Gaffin for more than 12 years. Little more than a year ago, Bulloch and Gaffin announced plans for SkyVue, an observation wheel on the scale of the Singapore Flyer, or the Star of Nanchang in China or the London Eye.
"People had been talking about putting an observation wheel in Vegas for years, and we just decided we were going to do it," Bulloch said
Down on the ground, two pillars now 60 feet tall point skyward, showing SkyVue is more than just so much talk. Today, the project begins the second phase of a $200 million construction that Bulloch promises will have a wheel towering over the Strip by the end of the year.
A dozen semi trucks are set to roll into the construction site this morning, bringing enough steel cable to stretch from the Strip to the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco to serve as supports for the massive wheel.
Plans are to have the hub and spindle for the wheel in place by the end of summer. By fall, constructions workers will begin forging large pie-shaped steel supports around the hub for a wheel expected to carry passengers late next year.
"The engineering behind it is like a big Erector set," Bulloch said.
The wheel is going over a base of concrete submerged some 14 feet into the desert floor, where cheap hotels once stood on land Bulloch and Gaffin have owned since Mandalay Bay was under construction. The wheel will be flanked on each side by huge LED screens the size of football fields, advertising restaurants and retail shops that are part of the development.
It's no coincidence that cable trucks are making deliveries just as the International Council of Shopping Centers is holding its convention in Las Vegas. Bulloch spent the day visiting booths at the ICSC, pitching his 140,000-square-feet of retail, dining and entertainment space.
The competition has been a little more noisy about its plans. Caesars Entertainment has been busy tearing up the center of the Strip and imploding a parking garage to make room for the Linq, which will have an observation wheel that overlooks the Flamingo and the Imperial Palace.
Linq is supposed to be taller by 50 feet.
In a town where developers try to outdo the other, Bulloch said that, 500 feet in the air, most people won't really notice 50 feet. He also said he thinks his wheel will not only have the best view, but be seen the most.
"Every airplane that flies in and out of Vegas will fly past that wheel," Bulloch said. "And everyone who takes their picture in front of the Las Vegas sign will have our wheel in the background."