Big Thrills to Redraw the Vegas Skyline?

Florida developer envisions world's tallest roller coaster on the Strip

by , Jun 21, 2013 | 6:56 am

As Las Vegas turns to high-adrenaline rides to freshen its appeal to visitors, one developer has quietly started to move ahead with a roller coaster that would look down on all but one building on the Strip.

U.S. Thrill Rides LLC has submitted plans to the Federal Aviation Administration in April to build the 650-foot-tall Polercoaster, the company’s name for a scream machine that combines an observation tower with a coaster on the way up and down. Because of the height and location — a map with the application shows it at the Tropicana — the agency must assess any potential hazard posed to the planes flying in and out of nearby McCarran International Airport.

Because the FAA is still evaluating the project, critical pieces such as financing and a firm deal on the site still have not fallen into place.

However, U.S. Thrill Rides President Michael Kitchen said the company has held discussions with banks willing to furnish loans for the Polercoaster, with an estimated cost approaching $100 million.

He declined to comment on the location. A spokeswoman for Tropicana did not comment.

“This will be the tallest roller coaster in the world,” he said. “Since Las Vegas is one of the top tourist destinations in the world, we think it will get higher visibility and foot traffic than other places.”

Windmere, Fla.-based U.S. Thrill Rides has built about 300 rides, many of them roller coasters for amusement parks. Company founder and CEO Bill Kitchen, Michael Kitchen’s father, said he conceived the Polercoaster idea as a way to add a thrill ride to an existing destination that lacks much open land.

“It goes very high, so you get an enormous amount of thrill from a very small amount of space,” Bill Kitchen said. “Using a couple of acres that you would need for a regular roller coaster would be out of reach on the Strip because of the cost.”

The Polercoaster would resemble something like the Stratosphere tower, with a round top that would including dining, retail and an observation deck. The Stratosphere, at 1,149 feet, would still be far taller.

On the Strip, only the unfinished Fontainbleau resort at 735 feet has gone higher than the proposed Polercoaster; the Palazzo would be 8 feet shorter.

Polercoaster’s center core would contain two glass elevators to the top for people who just want to look but not ride. Around that would run a regular spiral track to guide the eight self-propelled passenger cars to the top. Outside of that and the structure’s supporting pillars would be downhill ride, including several twists, turns and loops.

Altitude has become something of the new theme for inducing tourists to leave more of their money in Las Vegas. The attractions include:

  • The Slotzilla zip line, now under construction on Fremont Street.
  • A hybrid zip line and ski lift that would whisk visitors from the top of one tower at Rio to the other and back. The FAA approval became final on Saturday.
  • The 550-foot High Roller observation wheel that Caesars Entertainment is building just off the Strip next to the Flamingo as part of The Linq.
  • A multi-stage zip line connecting MGM Resorts International’s Luxor and Excalibur resorts. A company spokeswoman said the project is in the design phase after a monthslong process in which the FAA decertified a heliport on the Excalibur’s roof that was an obstacle to approving the zip line.

U.S. Thrill Rides currently does not operate a ride in Las Vegas but had the Sky Screamer ride in the mid-1990s that was part of the now-dismantled amusement park at the MGM Grand.


Contact reporter Tim O’Reiley at toreiley@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290.


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