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November 27, 2014

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Joe Downtown:

Joe Downtown: Slotzilla zip lines tested with dummies as attraction sets to open

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Scot Roeben

Four lower lines of Slotzilla were tested with plastic, weighted 175-pound dummies Wednesday, April 9, 2014.

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Lonnie Reed, principal of Themed Development Management LLC, is project manager of the Slotzilla zipline ride at the Fremont Street Experience. The ride is being put through a series of tests and inspections this week.

Slotzilla at Fremont Street Experience

Slotzilla at Fremont Street Experience on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, in downtown Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

Slotzilla’s downtown invasion is nigh.

No one is saying exactly when it will open, but project managers and engineers are this week testing 175-pound dummies on each of the four lower lines of Slotzilla, the Disney-esque zipline attraction at the Fremont Street Experience.

Lonnie Reed, principal of Themed Development Management LLC, out of Simi Valley, Calif., categorized the ride’s testing as some of the most stringent he’s seen in 47 years in the theme park business.

But with good reason.

“We’re building in the safest city, the safest county in the world with the most stringent standards of any place in the world,” he said. “But here you’re always on stage and what’s the business driving Las Vegas? Tourism.”

If drawing people to your city drives the economy, you can’t afford any mishaps, he added. In addition, with the speed that social media spreads news, “You’re only five seconds from having something broadcast around the world. The Fremont Street Experience people really understand this.”

The testing has been going on for a while. About three weeks ago, Reed said, it revealed that two of the dozens of trusses — they call them celery stalks because of their appearance — holding up the Fremont Street Experience electric canopy/screen were too close to the outside lines.

Those trusses had to be shifted more vertically. Then another brace was put into place that extends up and over a horizontal truss across the canopy. From the ground, the brace casts a shadow on the canopy.

Complicating the truss issue, Reed also said, was the fact that the canopy was so old, the engineering firm that designed it is no longer in business. It was completed in December 1995.

So new calculations had to be made — in essence, the canopy had to be re-engineered — so project managers could determine how to move the old trusses and how to put new ones in safely.

Reed pointed to the large opening at the bottom of the 128-foot-high Slotzilla tower. It’s an enormous opening but it has a purpose: it’s big enough to fit a fire truck through.

And at the other end of the zip line, the base of the landing pad is slightly off center — again, to create enough room on one side to allow a fire truck through.

Before customers can take a ride, Reed added, all four lines of the lower assembly will have to operate 50 times in a row — that’s from the very start of people getting into the construction elevators, getting hooked into the harness, taking off, and landing — without flaw.

Reed smiles when talking about the challenges. Over 47 years — 17 years with Disney and, more recently, as project manager of the Linq observation wheel — he appears to relish the job.

“Even if a tiny light somewhere goes out, we stop there, fix it and start it all over again,” he said. “There are so many hundreds and hundreds of things to make a ride like this happen.”

The ride will open in two phases. The lower portion, which runs to about the middle of the Fremont Street Experience, will open first. Neither Reed nor Jeff Victor, Experience president and general manager, would estimate when that opening date might be. The upper lines, which run 1,750 feet in length, will open later.

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown; he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

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