Oct. 13, 2010 -- Las Vegas has long been known for its big signs and flashing lights. Now visitors will have a new way to view them up close: speeding down a zipline high above the street.
A company best known for ziplines that run through rain forests and protected parks is now installing Sin City's latest thrill ride, an 800-foot line that will cut down historic Fremont Street.
The Fremont Street Flightline promises to send tourists flying over the street at up to 35 mph, bringing them close to the flashing lights that have defined the city.
Fremont Street is home to some of the oldest and most-historic casinos in Las Vegas. It was the location of the state's first telephone, the city's first hotel, first paved street, first traffic light and first elevator. Iconic casinos, such as the Golden Nugget and Horseshoe, call it home. The flashing lights have earned the block the nickname Glitter Gultch.
But in the past few decades, Fremont Street has been overshadowed by the newer, glitzier Strip. So to try to bring tourists back, the casinos along the street, in December 1995, opened the Fremont Street Experience, a five-block pedestrian mall covered with a giant canopy with 12 million LED lights that put on an hourly show each night. It's the largest video screen in the world.
Starting Friday, tourists can see the show on the new zipline, which starts outside and then slides under the canopy.
"Flying under the lights -- with or without LCD -- it's going to be an amazing experience," said Ian Green, one of the owners of Greenheart Conservation Company, the folks behind the zipline.
Las Vegas Zipline
The 10 casinos and hotels behind the Fremont Street Expereience hope the zipline will bring more guests to the area.
"We think it's going to be a great added attraction to the Fremont Street Experience," said Thomas Bruny, a spokesman for the experience.
Greenheart is best known for working with nature parks and preserves to provide attractions that bring in much-needed cash to support the conservation efforts. Project partners range from the Kakum National Park in Ghana to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in California to Royal Caribbean cruise line's private beach in Haiti.
So why Vegas?
Green hopes that profits from the ride will help support some of the company's more remote projects. He also hopes the ride will help to bring people back to Fremont Street, 15 years after the LED show was introduced.
"We want to provide people a different way to experience Fremont Street and the show," said Max Margolis, general manager of the project. "It's going to be pretty impressive."
The zipline will start 65 feet above the ground and plunge 45 feet over its 800-foot course. Margolis estimates that speeds will top out around 35 mph. There will be four parallel lines, meaning that visitors can race one another down the street.
The zipline will start at the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Fremont Street, fly over traffic at Fourth Street before going under the Fremont Street Experience canopy and ending near the Four Queens casino.
Construction started Monday night and the zipline is expected to open to tourists Friday. The company has only a 90-day permit to operate the line but hopes that it becomes a permanent feature of Fremont Street.
And just to show that Vegas really does know how to have fun, the Fremont Street Flightline is planning a broom-racing championship for Halloween. Witches will fly over the street, brooms tethered securely to their harnesses. Proceeds from the race will go to charity of the winner's choice.
The company already operates one zipline at Bootleg Canyon in nearby Boulder City, Nev. There have also been reports, about a year ago, that the company was trying to install a zipline at the Excalibur Hotel and Casino.
The tentative operating schedule will be 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. on weekends, and 2 p.m. to midnight on weekdays. Rides will cost $15 before 6 p.m. and $20 after that. A second ride -- which allows one to cut to the front of the line -- will cost $10 to $15, depending on the hour.