SCJ Hits Jackpot with High Roller Wheel in Las Vegas

Photo of High Roller observation wheel at sunset

Monday (3.31.2014) the world’s tallest observation wheel, soaring an epic 550 feet into the sky, opened in Las Vegas. And Engineering Specialties Group (ESG),  a division of SCJ Alliance (SCJ), was instrumental in the design and implementation of this enormous project.

The design of the 44,000-pound, 225-square-foot spherical cabins – a partnership between SCJ and Leitner POMA of America (LPOA) – was an engineering achievement.

Photo of a docked cabin of the High Roller Observation Wheel
Each of the 28 cabins is 225 square feet, 44,000 lbs, has 8 flat screen TVs and holds 40 people.

“Our role was to lead several key design components for the cabins on the wheel. LPOA had provided cabins for ski resorts, the London Eye and such, so they had the experience and expertise to construct and fabricate the cabins,” said ESG Office Principal Mike Deiparine, PE.

“But this is a different type of cabin, more of an entertainment ride. So with LPOA and SCJ both on the team, we collectively had the technology and fabrication abilities needed,” he said.

The High Roller, as the observation wheel is called, is the centerpiece of the new Linq outdoor pedestrian mall being developed by Caesars Entertainment Corporation. At 100 feet taller than the London Eye, the High Roller dominates the strip skyline.

The wheel boasts 28 bubble-like cabins, each holding 40 people, with 300 square feet of glass and eight flat screen TVs. A total of 1,120 people can be on the High Roller at any given time.

“This has been a great opportunity to contribute to a unique and exciting project. We are accustomed to working on high visibility projects, but this really redefines ‘high visibility’ – both with and without the pun,” said Deiparine.

“The project required a creative engineering answer. This was not something you could just replicate.  We took a concept and turned it into a reality after a lot of iterations and intellectual learning,” explained Deiparine. “The partnership with LPOA was significant.”

The High Roller’s design differs from a traditional Ferris wheel in that the cabins ride on the outside of the wheel while the cabin floors remain parallel to the ground.

ESG helped with the 3D modeling and designing the sphere of the cabins. When the wheel goes around, the cabin moves on a bearing. So it’s rotating, but you don’t feel it.

And the project was truly an international undertaking. Cabin materials are from around the world, with the glass coming from Italy, the interior shell from France, the bearings from Asia, and most of the steel and many of the components from LPOA’s Grand Junction, CO facility.

Before and after construction photos of Mike standing next to base of the High Roller observation wheel leg
ESG’s Mike Deiparine standing in front of one of the four main support legs for the wheel during construction (left) and after completion.

SCJ Alliance participated in the initial bid and proposal process that helped secure the contract from Caesars. “We had four weeks to put together the proposal, and that created a lot of energy. We led that effort and participated in creating the costing proposal,” recalled Deiparine.

The firm has been working on the High Roller project for nearly three years.

ESG’s Jamie Bunch, PE shared other aspects of the firm’s involvement. “We were responsible for the audio/video system and the heating and cooling, which is especially significant in Vegas,” he said with a smile.

The cabins’ cooling system has three levels of redundancies. In addition to Deiparine and Bunch, ESG engineer Jim Fletcher also worked on the project. ESG also assisted with the testing procedures and led production of the Operations and Maintenance documents.

Photo of marriage proposal on the High Roller
Tyson Garamendi and his fiancé Alyssa — the first High Roller proposal!

High profile, unique projects are not new to ESG. “Our skill sets and expertise are perfect for unique and challenging projects,” Deiparine said. Examples include the Roosevelt aerial tramway in New York City, ski lifts across the U.S. and Canada, and communication towers dotting rugged terrain, high upon mountain tops.

In San Francisco, ESG is working on a tram project for the Transbay Tower, a 1,070- foot skyscraper under construction. The tram will transport people from the ground level of the Tower to the 70-foot rooftop of Transbay Transit Center, which will feature a five-acre city park.

ESG has expertise spanning structural, civil, mechanical and electrical engineering. The Colorado team has a depth of project experience with ropeways (think ski lifts, gondolas, tramways), communication towers and automated people movers.

With its opening, the High Roller is the newest “must see” attraction in Las Vegas.  Admission is $24.95 during the day and $34.95 at night. Each ride is 30 minutes, a full rotation of the wheel and plenty of time to take pictures of The Strip and surrounding mountains.

When you go, take a picture and post it on our Facebook page.

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