The $210 million, 500-ft-tall SkyVue observation wheel broke ground on the Las Vegas Strip, directly across from Mandalay Bay Resort. On Thursday, March 1, about 130 mixer-trucks delivered and placed 1,300 cu yards of concrete needed for the western hemisphere’s largest observation wheel. Las Vegas-based Nevada Ready Mix Inc. was the supplier. The attraction at 3951 Las Vegas Blvd. S. is being built by developers Howard Bulloch and David Gaffin. Vancouver-based Ledcor is the general contractor, with Norcross Construction, Las Vegas, as owner’s representative.

The 18-in-dia tubular steel wheel has 16 spokes that connect to a custom spindle and hub assembly made up of two massive 26,000-lb. roller bearings manufactured in Germany. The wheel is held upright by a pair of 274-ft cast-in-place columns that act like bicycle forks. The 9-ft by 15-ft columns are hollow with internal stairwells that double as service access shafts.

The wheel is anchored by a 10-ft-deep reinforced concrete mat foundation, measuring 40-ft-by-100-ft. There is also two dozen 4-in-diameter cable tie-downs set at a 60° pitch. The project will use a total of 1,950 tons of steel and 625 miles of wire cable or enough to stretch from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City. Local firm JKR & Associates is the design engineer.

SkyVue has 32 glass-encased gondolas, each with a 25-person capacity. The wheel can service 640 riders every 30 minutes, which is the amount of time needed for a full orbit. Movement is powered by two dozen 3.5-hp electric drive motors. The 19-ft by 13-ft gondolas will offer views of the south Strip, with tickets priced at about $25 each. SkyVue is expected to operate 18 hours a day.

A pair of 250-ft-dia, 50,000-sq-ft high-definition LED screens sandwich the wheel center, acting as oversized billboards capable of streaming live video. Software similar will keep screen images stationary while the wheel rotates.

The project includes the construction of a two-story, 200,000-sq-ft base building, with two dozen retail shops, a 10,000-sq-ft food court, and four national chain restaurants. The steel-framed, glass and EIFS structure will  have 21,000 sq ft of convention space. The wheel actually dips through the center of the building. SykVue sits on 38.5 acres of raw land, but occupies less than one-third of the site. Future phases are planned.

The project will create up to 700 construction jobs, as well as another 500 permanent positions upon completion in July 2013.