The next big thing in Las Vegas is The Linq. Certain to transform the look and experience of the Strip, the word “big” barely scrapes the surface of this ambitious project.
In August 2011, Caesars Entertainment announced plans to build this open-air, pedestrian-only district that will be jam-packed with dining, entertainment and shopping opportunities. It will also boast a 550-foot-tall observation wheel.
Located along a corridor between The Quad and Flamingo resorts, The Linq begins where the Irish-themed O’Sheas Casino once stood on Las Vegas Boulevard and stretches back about 1,200 feet, which is the length of a typical indoor shopping mall.
Without setting foot on the site, you can’t comprehend how massive or multifaceted the development is. This morning, a group of us from the media were given a sneak peek from Jon Gray, vice president and general manager of The Linq, and a leadership team from Caesars Entertainment that included two of the project’s architects.
“We’re very excited to get to share with you the progress of The Linq,” said Gray upon welcoming us at a short presentation held in Margaritaville at the Flamingo, with the hum of construction – saws buzzing and hammers pounding – in the background. “The Linq represents another step in the right direction of where the future of Las Vegas is going.”
An outdoor center, The Linq will offer several different experiences all in one place right at the heart of the Las Vegas Strip. Ease of access was the focus during the planning. Not only will The Linq be reachable through numerous points from The Quad (via two entrances and several new indoor/outdoor restaurants), but the Flamingo will also tie in seamlessly.
David Codiga, executive project director of The Linq, acknowledged that the design took years to develop. Initially, Caesars Entertainment examined all of its properties, which stretch on the east side of Las Vegas Boulevard from Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino to Harrah’s. The ultimate goal was to connect them. The Linq will provide an east/west axis tying in Caesars Palace on the west side of the road to these other properties in a very walkable way.
“We looked at the pedestrian traffic,” said Codiga of a study done around 2010. “Just on this side of the street, 20 million people walk down the sidewalk in the course of a year. Many of them don’t have a destination. They’re here in Las Vegas, but where are they going? So what we tried to create was a destination that’s pedestrian-friendly, that’s people-friendly, that’s clean, that’s safe, that’s exciting and that’s fun.”
Speaking of access, after putting on a hard hat and a mesh safety vest, we got to pass through the gate that encloses the work area and stroll The Linq’s thoroughfare, which will soon be laid with pavers. Descriptions and renderings of the $550 million district did not fully prepare me for The Linq’s overwhelming size and scope. Standing amid a street scene with elegant brick facades and other architecturally charming frontages, it’s impossible not to get excited.
“We really got our inspiration from Las Vegas,” explained Codiga, regarding how the architecture draws upon different eras in the city’s development – from its railroad beginnings in the 1900s and the boom in the ’30s and ’40s to the contemporary outlook of today. “We distilled that down into a street that we think embodies all of those characteristics. What you’ll see in our buildings and structures forms an industrial, modern, warehouse street.”
Marking the entrance to The Linq is a newly erected, three-sided LED pylon. The sign is skinny but, at 130 feet tall, rises as high as the eye can see. It will be interactive and have a lot of programming to pull people in.
Adjacent to the pylon, jutting out from The Quad, is a rooftop attraction named the Vortex. It’s another programmable LED installation intended to complement the sign and symbolize what Branislav Hetzel, founder, CEO and design principal of Hetzel Design, called the “pulsating core of Las Vegas.”
His company was responsible for conceiving the Vortex and the other multimedia displays on The Quad’s frontage. Hetzel said that they wanted to do something very contemporary here that wasn’t just another billboard.
“More and more, this idea of a ‘vortex’ developed with a shape that starts as a tree and then twists and widens up,” he described of the colorful attraction that will be eye-popping at night. “We decided on this canopy that’s not just a beacon on the corner, but it becomes a shelter and it enhances the guests’ experience.”
Other signage at The Linq also grabbed my attention. I spotted a lucky four-leaf shamrock, signifying the resurrection of O’Sheas. The original neon sign had been saved before the casino and parking garage were demolished. Already mounted in its new quarters, guests need only wait a few months longer for the rollicking return of beer pong and, of course, O’Sheas beloved leprechaun mascot.
And that’s just the beginning. Although likely to appeal most to those between the ages of 21 and 46, there will be something at The Linq for everyone. It will have a very comfortable setting with components for all ages.
Among the impressive roster of tenants is the Brooklyn Bowl, a highly acclaimed entertainment establishment from New York that will feature concerts, bowling, award-winning food and a vibrant nightlife scene. Sprinkles Cupcakes, a bakery established in Beverly Hills that has amassed a cult following, will launch its first Vegas outlet in The Linq, as will the rock-influenced pizza concept Flour & Barley by Billy Richardson. Another unique tenant at is F.A.M.E. (the letters stand for “Food,” “Art,” “Music” and “Entertainment”), which will boast live music and an Asian culinary bazaar. In addition to a Tilted Kilt pub, The Linq will be home to the largest Yard House in the country. Showcasing a remarkable assortment of draft beer taps, it will also possess a lovely patio and balcony.
Outdoor settings like these will flourish in The Linq, and the communal areas will utilize natural elements. We passed numerous tree-lined blocks. Further greenery is to be planted, and there’s a giant hole at the center of the development where a fountain will be put in.
It will be an amazing transformation, especially when you consider that this was originally an alley and service road.
“We tried to be authentic to the street,” said Brian Fink, associate principal at Klai Juba Architects. “We want everybody to feel like they’re still part of that original Las Vegas street. You’ll see many different types of architecture down the road – then the High Roller at the end obviously brings a really unique and world-renowned feature.”
Without a doubt, the centerpiece of The Linq will be the observation wheel, known as the High Roller. The legs have been set up and we could see the rim taking shape. Sections of its circumference are being fitted individually – three are in now – until they crest at the top. There will also be lighting on the rim, so it’s sure to be beautiful at night.
Upon completion, the High Roller will have 28 cabins designed as transparent spheres. Each one will be able to hold up to 40 people and provide spectacular views of the Strip.
Tickets will be sold at various locations in The Linq by time slots – modeled on the booking process employed at the famous London Eye. Plus, the High Roller will offer more than just a ride. After entering the adjoining building and going through a security check, you’ll be routed past a bar on the second floor. A preflight video will be shown as well, with a walk through the High Roller’s retail store concluding your visit.
An elaborate transportation network has been designed in conjunction with the observation wheel. A second porte cochère for The Quad is being constructed in the vicinity. A Las Vegas Monorail stop serving Harrah’s and The Quad already exists here, with another stop a short distance away at the Flamingo. The 18 acres behind the High Roller will generally function as a surface parking lot.
The first portion of The Linq – that connecting The Quad and the Flamingo – is expected to open by the end of this year. Look for the rest of it to be introduced at the end of February 2014, with the High Roller debuting and the end of the first quarter or early second quarter of 2014.
So in the future when you’re searching for somewhere to go for a good meal, a happy hour drink, a late-night snack, a concert, a date, a business gathering, a birthday celebration, a bachelor/bachelorlette party or a unique wedding (hint: the High Roller) in Las Vegas, The Linq will be your answer.
“This will be a critical mass of nightlife, entertainment and dining,” said Gray.
Indeed, The Linq is on track to become the ultimate place for bringing people together at the center of the Las Vegas Strip.