By Jasper Calcara | November 1, 2022
America’s fascination with Ferris Wheels was born at the 1893 World’s Fair when George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. unveiled his masterpiece at 264’-tall. Roughly 120 years later and at nearly twice the height of the original, the High Roller Ferris Wheel was completed as the world’s tallest, towering 550’ above the Las Vegas Strip. It has since established itself as a fixture of the Las Vegas skyline, giving riders a 21st century view above the towering casinos from its space-age spherical cabins.
DHC’s involvement in the project covered multiple years and various scopes of work, but primarily focused on aiding in the lifting and installation of the permanent 40-person capacity passenger cabins, which rotate smoothly on the main ring, giving riders an unobstructed 360-degree view.
Each of the twenty-eight state-of-the-art cabins were intended to be trucked into place, quickly rigged, and lifted to the wheel, where workers would permanently secure it in place, attach all electrical and data cables, before rotating the wheel and repeating the process under a very strict deadline.
As shown above in red: the custom steel rigging frame allowed for a steady and uniform lift, with precision and stability to guide the bolted connections into alignment on the wheel rim. Once raised off the flatbed, the truck departed and made room for the next cabin to be transported into place. All vertical suspension lines had to be carefully located to avoid interference with access and framing above during each stage of work, until the cabin was fully supported, and the rigging released.
By far, the most difficult aspect of the work was providing safe worker access at the various connection points while accounting for the complicated geometry, fall hazards, and an accelerated installation sequence. Therefore, DHC designed a series of custom steel framed platforms that allowed workers to roll them into place and encapsulate the cabin with multi-level work decks. These platforms gave each employee easy access to all sections of the ring while providing fall protection and safe work zone for each trade.
The custom cantilever decks were supported by temporary scaffold support towers, with roller bearings, which allowed workers to quickly extend the platforms, lock them into place and immediately access. Once all work was complete, they would clear the area, retract the platform, rotate the newly installed cabin along the wheel, and expose the next support point to repeat the overall process.
Careful coordination between all parties involved in the fabrication of the pods, transport and erection, and final connection took extensive planning, preliminary evaluation, and revision due to an ever-evolving site and schedule. DHC’s design team ensured careful consideration was given throughout the design process to minimize custom assemblies while attempting to utilize as much rentable construction equipment as possible to save costs and avoid wasted materials.
Ultimately, DHC provided on-site support and emergency design services to address field changes as necessary to allow the installation program to keep workers safe and the project on schedule. Although the High Roller has since been eclipsed as the largest Ferris Wheel in the world, we’ll always remember the challenges we faced and relationships we formed while working on this one-of-a-kind project!