Plaza Hotel Casino Las Vegas Wranglers ice hockey rink

A look down to the future home of the Las Vegas Wranglers ice hockey rink: atop downtown Las Vegas’ Plaza Hotel Casino (Image: Vegas Chatter)

What could be more surreal than ice-skating in the desert?

How about ice-skating on the roof of a very tall building in the desert? Yep, that’ll do it. Vegas has long been a center of major sporting arenas – from championship boxing at the MGM Grand Garden Arena to NASCAR events at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway – but this is something a little different. Welcome to the new home of the Las Vegas Wranglers ice hockey team: on the roof of the Plaza Hotel and Casino in downtown Las Vegas. The Wranglers are investing $4 million in the 45,000-square-foot structure, which will encompass a rink, plus seating for 3,500 avid hockey fans.

New Home for Las Vegas Hockey Team

The minor league team had been looking for a new home ever since Boyd Gaming chose not to renew the lease on the Orleans Arena, and when Wranglers president Billy Johnson happened to cast his eye across The Plaza’s roof from the South Tower, a grand scheme began to take shape.

“[I remember thinking] this could be funky. It’s a word that I’ve stuck with ever since,” Johnson said.

Having thrashed out a deal with the Plaza which will see them occupy the space for five years with the opportunity to renew the lease again after that, the Wranglers’ “funky” new home is scheduled to open in November 2014 and will take just five months to build. The shell-like dome will constitute a metal frame covered with fabric, and the space – which was once part of the Plaza’s parking structure – will be able to cope with the weight of the fans without any additional structural reinforcement, says Johnson. The Plaza will convert the fifth floor into player locker rooms, a treatment area and bathrooms, and Johnson envisages TV projections beaming across the inside of the dome while chandeliers hang above the ice.

That’s definitely quite funky.

The new arena will be privately funded, and Johnson hopes to recoup some of the costs by opening it up to the public for skating sessions, concerts and conventions, as well as cashing in on some of that Vegas nightlife by hosting more midnight games.

Midnight games down here will be sick,” he said.

Linq’d In

But fans of sky-high Vegas spectacles won’t have to wait until November to get their dose of vertigo. The opening of the 550-foot-tall, $550-million Ferris wheel known as the High Roller is also now imminent. The wheel – which is structurally complete – will be the biggest Ferris wheel in the world when it opens at the Linq on the Las Vegas Strip, and each rotating cabin will hold as many as 40 passengers. The cabins will be furnished with video screens (as if the view out of the window were not diverting enough) and stereophonic sound, and even the odd reverend or two: this being Vegas, “Wheel Weddings” will be all the rage.

The wheel will stand as a giant symbol that Vegas leads the world in non-gaming related entertainment, and towers above other casino cities in this regard. Officials in Macau recently said that industry diversification is crucial for the sustainable development of the region, signalling their intent to create more non-gambling related attractions. They’re going to have to come up with something pretty big to top this.