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A tale of two wheels

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By this time next year, the Las Vegas Strip will look very different. There is the possibility that two huge observation wheels will reside on the central south end of the Strip.

Despite both projects featuring a giant wheel as a centerpiece, LINQ and SkyVue couldn't look more different at this moment. It's a tale of two wheels, and no one knows quite how it will end.

On the day Caesar's Entertainment took FOX5 on a tour of its $1/2-billion LINQ project, the man overseeing construction couldn't have been happier.

Earlier that day, David Codiga's crew lifted what looks like a giant kickstand into place. It's a brace leg that will eventually secure a giant observation wheel.

The next phase begins next week when Codiga's crew will put in place the end sections of the hub and spindle.

"Each of these sections weighs 350,000 pounds. They're going to be lifted up independently," Codiga said.

The High Roller observation wheel will stand 550 feet tall, twice as high as the Flamingo hotel and casino and 100 feet taller than the London Eye ferris wheel.

The wheel will be adorned with 28 44,000-pound spherical glass balls. Each one will hold 40 passengers.

"This being Las Vegas, these are going to be luxury cabins, I imagine?" FOX5's John Huck asked.

"They're luxury cabins. They'll have audio-visual. We can serve drinks inside of them," Codiga replied.

Once finished, LINQ will have an urban, outdoor feel similar to New York City's Meatpacking District.

"How concerned are you that half a mile down the road is another project that if it gets completed will look somewhat like the LINQ?" Huck asked.

"I'm not concerned at all," replied Jon Gray, the 28-year-old LINQ vice president and CEO.

At LINQ, it's loud, hoping with people working toward a December open. But a few blocks down Las Vegas Boulevard is SkyVue. The site has been quiet for months now, but the developer says that is going to change.

Like many proposed Strip projects, SkyVue stared with fancy renderings before running out of money.

The project got as far as two 247-foot columns before crews cleared out. Things may be looking up, though. SkyVue has cleared contractors' liens and its CEO, Howard Bullock, has said he will finalize financing in the next few months.

Bullock declined a request for an on-camera interview with FOX5. He did tell us via email that construction on SkyVue will resume in May or June and "the massive parts that will make up SkyVue have been rapidly taking shape all over the world."

Bullock expects the wheel to be up and running in 2014.

University of Nevada Las Vegas Director of Gaming Research David Schwartz doesn't share Bullock's optimism.

"I am a little bit skeptical of SkyVue, just looking at the track record. Only he knows what resources he has or doesn't have. From the outside, it's very easy to be skeptical when you have another project moving full-bore ahead," Schwartz said.

If LINQ and the High Roller wheel end up competing with SkyVue, will Las Vegas support two wheels? SkyVue reps said they have a study indicating both projects would thrive.

When finished, the High Roller will be the tallest observation wheel in the world, but perhaps not for long. New York and Dubai both have plans for observation wheels.

Construction on the Dubai Eye will start at the end of 2013. It will stand 689 feet high.

Copyright 2013 KVVU (KVVU Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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