World’s Largest Observation Wheel, Las Vegas High Roller Now Open

cables holding linkArup, a multidisciplinary engineering and consulting firm with a reputation for delivering innovative and sustainable designs, celebrated the opening of the world’s largest observation wheel, the 550-foot-tall Las Vegas High Roller, on March 31, 2014. Engaged as the prime design consultant by Caesars Entertainment, in collaboration with venue consultants and architects the Hettema Group, Arup provided the structural, geotechnical, mechanical and electrical engineering design, and acoustics and fire life safety consulting for this project.

As the focal point of Caesars new $550 million outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment district The LINQ, located on the 50-yard line of the world famous Las Vegas Strip, the High Roller can accommodate 1,120 people across 28 cabins for a 30-minute ride that features sweeping views of the Vegas skyline and valley. Following its experience designing the 541-foot-tall Singapore Flyer and the 443-foot-tall London Eye, Arup guided Caesars from early design concepts through construction administration, coordinating with two general contractors, as well as all sub-contractors, suppliers, and the cabin designer. The components that formed the wheel were sourced from all over the world, built to technical specifications provided by Arup.

World's Largest Ferris Wheel“With only a handful of giant observation wheels in the world, we chose Arup because of its reputation and the success of the London Eye and the Singapore Flyer,” said David Codiga, Caesars’ executive project director for The LINQ and High Roller. “Their global expertise and stable of specialized engineers made them uniquely suited to oversee a project of this magnitude.”

The Arup team had to overcome many design challenges, which include supporting the massive structure on the narrow and highly constrained site. Situated next to a monorail, the hub of the wheel is held by four inclined support legs and a brace leg that span the adjacent roads and a large stormwater culvert nearby. Considerations for passenger comfort and safety in strong winds, earthquakes, extreme external temperatures, and in the event of any mechanical malfunction were all integrated into the comprehensive design. With a life expectancy of 50-years and an estimated 650,000 rotations, numerous detailed structural analyses were conducted to control stress concentrations on the bearings, steelwork, cables, and fittings to guard against fatigue.

“Arup relishes the opportunity to develop creative solutions to the unique multidisciplinary challenges posed by projects such as the High Roller,” said Michael Willford, Arup’s project director and global advanced technology and research leader. “For a project presenting so many different technical challenges, we assemble a design team including experts of different disciplines with widely different experiences from our offices around the world. This enables us to generate and brainstorm many innovative ideas that can be developed into designs that inspire and delight the end-user.”

In addition to the Singapore Flyer and the London Eye, Arup has collaborated on many innovative and high-profile entertainment projects around the world, including numerous iconic performing arts facilities and sports stadia. In Las Vegas, Arup has provided fire code and safety engineering for many of the casinos and is engineering the new intake tunnel at Lake Mead.

About the photo:

As each rim section was installed, it was held temporarily in place by cables and temporary steel struts. The 3-inch-diameter steel cables (supplied by Freyssinet) were left slack until the rim was fully assembled, at which point all the cables were tensioned to their target prestress levels. 

Once the cables were prestressed, the tensions were fine-tuned to straighten the rim (much like truing a bicycle wheel). This construction methodology allows for the rim to be built to extremely tight tolerances, which is critical for the operation of the wheel.

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