A Florida roller coaster company wants to build a towering roller coaster in Las Vegas, but the project has a long way to go before becoming a reality.
US Thrill Rides LLC filed an application in April with the Federal Aviation Administration to build a 650-foot-tall observation deck and roller coaster called the Polercoaster. The FAA is reviewing the application, agency spokesman Ian Gregor said.
The company's application includes a map that marks the proposed location for the coaster as the Tropicana. But Tropicana officials would not confirm any involvement in the project.
“We have been approached by many companies,” said Fred Harmon, the Tropicana's chief marketing officer. “However, no commitments have been made.”
US Thrill Rides CEO Michael Kitchen reportedly has been talking with banks willing to dole out loans for the multi-million dollar Polercoaster. But Kitchen would not confirm loan approval or talk about the project.
“We need to decline an interview and cannot comment at this time on any specific project in Vegas,” he said.
Federal law requires FAA to review projects more than 200 feet tall to determine if they could pose a hazard to airplanes or navigation equipment. Given the possibility of the Polercoaster going up near the Tropicana, the FAA must make sure its height wouldn’t affect the path of planes flying in and out of McCarran International Airport.
The FAA’s opinion is only a recommendation, however, and the agency can’t prevent developers from building. It's up to local governments to decide whether to issue building permits.
And local leaders in the past have killed or altered projects because of FAA concerns.
Stratosphere developer Bob Stupak originally wanted the 1,149-foot hotel tower to be 1,815 feet high, but his proposal was denied by the city.
Plans for Crown Las Vegas, a 1,064-foot-tall resort planned for the site of the former Wet ‘n Wild water park on the Strip, never reached fruition because of concerns about its height. The FAA in 2006 deemed the tower a potential aviation hazard, and developer Chris Milam, who subsequently pitched a Henderson sports stadium complex, abandoned the project in 2008.
If built, the Polercoaster also wouldn’t be US Thrill Rides’ first venture in Las Vegas.
In 1996, the Sky Screamer, a 250-foot arching skycoaster that swung riders through the air like a giant swing set, was built at the MGM Grand Adventure, which opened in 1993 and closed in 2000. The ride was designed by Kitchen when he was affiliated with Sky Fun 1.
A similar 180-foot-tall attraction was built at what is now the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno.
Roller coasters have long been used by local resorts to attract attention and customers. Some medical experts say the adrenaline rush of a roller coaster is similar to the excitement gamblers feel when they win big.
Roller coasters debuted in Las Vegas in 1993 with the Canyon Blaster at Circus Circus' Adventuredome and the Lightning Bolt at the MGM Grand Adventure.
The Desperado, once the highest roller coaster in the world, opened at Buffalo Bill’s in Primm in 1994. At 85 mph, it’s the fastest coaster in Southern Nevada.
The Stratosphere planted the High Roller coaster on top of its tower in 1996, but it closed in 2005. Different thrill rides took its place.
New York-New York built its iconic roller coaster, originally called the Manhattan Express, when the resort opened in January 1997. The attraction, now called the Roller Coaster, features two inversions, a drop of 144 feet and speeds of 67 mph.
The last roller coaster to debut in Las Vegas was Speed-The Ride at the former Sahara. It opened in April 2000 and closed in May 2011 ahead of the resort’s planned remodeling and rebranding. The ride reportedly will be resurrected at a small theme park on Las Vegas Boulevard near the Mandalay Bay.
And another new coaster is expected to join the crowd later this year.
MGM Resorts International announced earlier this year that a new roller coaster, tentatively named El Loco, will open at the Adventuredome in December. The ride is being designed by S&S Worldwide, of Logan, Utah, and would replace the Adventuredome’s Rim Runner water chute ride that closed in February.