The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California on June 23, 1996 · Page 358
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The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California · Page 358

Los Angeles, California
Issue Date:
Sunday, June 23, 1996
Page 358
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Las Vegas Topping 1,149 feet, $550-million Stratosphere shoots for the sky By STACEY WELLING If there's one resort on the Las Vegas Strip that's easy to find, it's the Stratosphere tower. All one has to do is look up. ; Projecting 1,149 feet above the city's glittering landscape, the Stratosphere is the tallest building west of the Mississippi and the tallest free-standing observation tower in the United States. With its wide windows, indoor and outdoor observation decks and heart-stopping thrill rides on the highest levels, the Stratosphere has reshaped the Las Vegas skyline. The $550-million resort, which opened April 30 on the site of the former Vegas World Casino, has a 97,000-square-foot casino divided into three pavilions, each with an internationally flavored theme. A trip to the tower starts in the casino where escalators take visitors up the base of an atrium-style entrance designed to look like the Eiffel Tower. The first level above the casino is the 122,000-square-foot Tower Shops Shopping Center, which is divided into streets named for international cities. Storefronts in the Hong Kong section have Oriental-styled rooftops with golden lanterns and paper dragons. The New Ycrk section is decorated vith brick facades and neon Art Deco lights. Seventy retail stores, including Swatch, Victoria's Secret and Bath and Body Works are scheduled to open in phases between June and November. More than 127,000 visitors flocked to the tower the first week it was open. The elevator ride to the 854-foot-high indoor observation deck ($7 for adults and $5 for kids) takes just 40 seconds. Circling the tower, a glass-enclosed deck provides a 360-degree view of the Las Vegas valley. A split-level, outdoor deck is about 20 feet higher and offers the best vantage, day or night, for viewing three states-Nevada, Arizona and California. About 40 of those who tour the landmark elect to ride the Stratosphere's two adrenaline-pumping thrill rides on top of the tower. The Let It Ride Roller Coaster circles the tower 900 feet above the ground on three levels of winding track. The nine-car coaster, the world's highest, hits a top speed of 28 miles per hour, and the 32-degree curves give the illusion of even greater speed. "The rides up here are no different from the rides at Six Flags," said public relations manager Patricia Marvel. "They just happen to be higher." Also on the top of the tower, located on the deck above the roller coaster, is The Big Shot-one of three such rides in the world. Riders sit in a chair facing the vast-ness of Southern Nevada's valley with nothing but a harness over their shoulders. As sound effects of rocket engines and hydraulic air pressure tanks rumble, the riders' legs dangle while the ride thrusts them 160 feet in the air in two seconds to the top of a mast above the tower. The initial plunge back down is faster than a free fall out of a plane. Ride operators like Bob Ridall add to the entertainment. "Keep your head back, enjoy the view and smile," he tells a group of tense passengers before a ride. The ride surges upward, then glides back down to the energetic tempo of "Viva Las Vegas." The mix of passengers aboard the Big Shot has changed since the Stratosphere opened. "The first couple of days we got mostly the young daredevil types," he said. "The more the word gets around, the more I'm seeing a variety of people." The oldest rider Riddle has strapped in is an 89-year-old woman. "They're all coming," he added. A gentler attraction at the Stratosphere is the Top of the World Restaurant. At 800 feet above the Strip, the 360-seat dining room revolves 360 degrees every hour. The menu includes prime rib, fish, flaming deserts and an extensive wine list. Patrons can enjoy the same view from a 220-seat cocktail lounge one level above the restaurant. There are several restaurants on the casino level of the property. One of the most popular is the '50s-fhemed Roxy's diner, where waiters and waitresses sing to customers every hour. Other levels of the tower have conference and meetings rooms and three wedding chapels, each with a different view and different atmosphere. The Heavenly Garden chapel has an outdoor feel; the Roman-style Renaissance Court is true to its name with marble Two months after its opening, the $550-million Stratosphere continues to engage visitors with 122,000 square feet of shops and daredevil rides. floors and red and gold tones. But one of the resorts biggest attractions is yet to come: The Stratosphere tentatively plans to install a 70-foot mechanical gorilla that will climb up the outside walls of the tower carrying up to 48 passengers seated inside. For more information, call (800) 99-TOWER (998-6937). s T 'J - ' SAMARA EirCuTTEElaiEEOT DS BUOILtDuCtfG IPcbit IEIncniiim; Includes 1 Breakfast Buffet Per Person UY at Ihe Sahara and experience what an he talk is about! Receive Sahara's "Book of Ridws at diech-in valued at over $200. Free Hal! Retail Discounts! Free Pull To Win $1000! Stop by our Welcome Center for more details. 800-634-6666 limited availability, rats subject change. Weetenk slightly hiejier. Not available taring Holiday or Conventnii periods. Single or Double Occupancy, Sunday Thru Thursday Through 823 l)li!"H'- it life las Vegas Btvd. w Irwiriiri iiiij t urn f t A ;r m - .-.4..

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