Tourists have started taking in the view from a skyline-changing observation wheel that offers a unique overview of sparkling Las Vegas Strip resorts, wide skies and craggy brown mountains in the distance.
Van Kim, an airline call-centre employee from Phoenix, declared the experience “unanimously awesome”.
Kim stood in line for six hours to be in the first gondola to complete the 30-minute ride on the 168-metre High Roller. Its height eclipses the 165-metre Singapore Flyer and the nearly 135-metre London Eye.
The High Roller is expected to be the tallest in the world until planned Ferris-style wheels are completed in coming years in New York and Dubai.
“It’s probably the best view of the Strip,” said Kim, who made mental images on a sunny and blustery day of the Bellagio fountain across Las Vegas Boulevard and the stunningly green Wynn Golf Club a short distance away.
Kim compared what he saw from his spherical pod with the panorama from an observation deck at the 350-metre Stratosphere tower, just three kilometres away. He said he liked the view better at the heart of the Strip.
“We didn’t feel the wind at all,” he added.
The Las Vegas wheel is part of $US550 million ($A594.95 million) restaurant, bar, retail and entertainment development built by casino giant Caesars Entertainment between its Flamingo, Harrah’s and renamed Quad hotel-casinos. The Quad used to be the Imperial Palace.
The outdoor pedestrian mall – dubbed LINQ – is across the Strip from the company’s flagship Caesars Palace resort. The walkway features beer bars, shops and a trendy “Cupcake ATM” at a Sprinkles sweets store, anchored by a Brooklyn Bowl venue offering concert, nightclub, bar, bowling alley and restaurant experiences.
It leads to the High Roller, resembling a big white bicycle wheel with spoke-like cables. It sits between two stations of the nearly decade-old Las Vegas monorail line, which runs 6.3 kilometres and connects several hotels and the Las Vegas Convention Center.
From a distance, the motion of the wheel is nearly imperceptible. Its profile is unmistakeable.
At night, it changes hues from blue to red to green to purple. Each of the Ferris wheel’s 28 glass-enclosed and air-conditioned gondolas can hold up to 40 people. Tickets are $US24.95 ($A26.99) during the day and $US34.95 ($A37.81) at night, with front-of-the-line VIP passes selling for $US59.95 ($A64.85).
About 10,000 people, mostly Caesars employees, took preview rides in recent days before project chief David Codiga and a Caesars executive, Tariq Shaukat, broke champagne bottles at Monday’s midday ceremony. They were surrounded by elected officials and dignitaries who then rode the wheel.
Steve Sisolak, chairman of the seven-member Clark County Commission that governs the Strip, emerged afterward and called the view spectacular. He said the two years of construction had provided an important jobs boost.
“You can see the entire valley,” Sisolak said. “This is going to be one of those things everyone who comes to Las Vegas is going to want to do.”
Another developer’s effort to build a 152-metre wheel called SkyVue near McCarran International Airport has proceeded slowly, leaving twin support spires marking the site across the Strip from the Mandalay Bay resort.
Officials with that company, Compass Investments, say it could open next year.