What is the LINQ? Even Jon Gray, the Caesars Entertainment executive assigned to run the project as general manager, admits it’s been a “little difficult” to communicate to the world exactly what the LINQ will be. “It’s completely new for this market,” he says. “You find yourself comparing it to projects in other parts of the country, like a Bourbon Street type of experience, or a smaller version of Times Square with all that activity. But I don’t know if those comparisons [fit] because it’s such a different project.”
Let’s simplify: The LINQ, which is on pace to open in December 2013, will be an open-air entertainment center, a strip of land between two casinos—the Quad and the Flamingo—full of restaurants, bars, shopping and at least one live music venue. It will total about 200,000 square feet and cost more than $500 million.
The anchor is the High Roller, which will be the tallest observation wheel—don’t call it a Ferris wheel—in the world at 550 feet. The wheel will be located close to Audrie Street, just of the Strip. There will be multiple pedestrian access points to the LINQ from Las Vegas Boulevard, back on Audrie, and through the two casinos as well. LINQ construction also includes a new O’Sheas-styled casino space inside the Quad, and special events and festivals will be programmed on eight acres, back near the wheel.
The whole idea is to provide fun, casual entertainment and dining options for the tourists who want to take a ride on the High Roller. Gray is hoping the retail and restaurant attractions will entice locals to hit the LINQ, too. “It’s tough to get locals on the Strip,” he says. “But we want to instill that every tenant will be local-friendly. You know every time you have someone come in from out of town, you’re going to end up at this wheel. I know it’s something my family would want to come do, see the wheel. If you’re going to find yourself there several times a year, we want to make sure the rest of the experience is conducive to that. I hope locals will be here a lot.”
Confirmed LINQ tenants include retail outlets Koto, Bella Scarpa, Ruby Blue and Chilli Beans; Chayo Mexicano, a Mexican restaurant; Off the Strip, a local restaurant that originated in Southern Highlands; FAME, a two-level Asian dining destination with a sushi restaurant upstairs and a night market-themed attraction below; Ghiradelli chocolates; Style Bar, a combination bar and salon for women; the third Las Vegas location of Yard House, a beer-oriented restaurant; Sprinkles cupcakes; Flour and Barley, a pizza place; Tilted Kilt, an Irish pub; Starbucks and Brooklyn Bowl. There are several spaces still available in the LINQ, including a large two-level space on the north side of the complex that could be integrated with the Quad’s pool area.
Gray is particularly excited about Brooklyn Bowl, and justifiably so—it’ll take up 78,000 square feet by itself. Like the original, very popular location in New York, it’ll be a restaurant, bar, bowling center and concert hall. “They’re basically scaling it twice the size to come to Vegas,” Gray says. “Brooklyn Bowl is going to bring in seven days a week of programming and cool new shows to the Vegas market. I’m a big live music fan, so to be able to go in and see bands I’ve never heard of is exciting for me.” The venue can accommodate 2,000 people, and the restaurant portion will be under the control of the Bromberg brothers, who also operate Blue Ribbon at Cosmopolitan.
Even with all this info, it’s hard to characterize the LINQ. It’s not a new casino, and it’s not just a renovation of old casino space. But it’s big, and it’s bringing a whole bunch of stuff—food, music, shopping—that tourists and locals tend to expect from a new Strip casino. What kind of impact will it have? We’ll see in 11 months.