At first glance, the structure on the ground appeared to be a giant Ukrainian Easter egg. In actuality, it was a mosaic dome destined for the House of Blues nightclub at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. The dome was built on the construction site before being lifted into place.

Western Tile of Las Vegas had the job of "laying the egg," along with all the other masonry work in the new luxury resort, which recently opened its 3,700-room facility on a 60-acre site on the Las Vegas strip.

"We started with the dimensions, colors and a rendering of the decorative pattern that was to cover the dome," said Koral Vaughn, Western Tile's project superintendent. "By the time the tile was ordered and delivered and the dome's fiberglass frame was moved to the site, we had 11 days to do the job. It was a lot of work that had to be done in a hurry. That's because the crane to lift the completed dome was going to be available for only a short period of time.

"I knew from the beginning that using aerial work platforms was the only practical way to get the job done within the allotted time. They would give our workers the flexibility to move around the dome's exterior without touching it. Another consideration in favor of booms was that they would be ready to be put to use as soon as they were delivered to the site. If we had used scaffolding, it would have taken us nearly as long to erect it as we had time to do the job."

The company also was responsible for laying imported stone floors in the deluxe bathrooms, plus marble, tile and stone throughout the public areas. Working with tile is a little different than using some other media. Because tiles are set in cement, work on a job isn't continuous. Breaks are needed while the cement cures. So, even though Western Tile had a tight schedule, the aerial work platforms they needed to do the work were not used all the time.

Only one boom was required to do the layout. But after the pattern was applied, three were needed for other workers to move over the dome while setting the tile, grouting, and cleaning and coating the finished surface with a protective silicon sealer.

Because of the unique way the Mandalay Bay job was structured, Western Tile's aerial work platform requirements for the House of Blues' dome were easily answered. It is owned by the Mandalay Bay Resort Group and was built by Circus Circus Development Corp. As part of the package to build the hotel, Circus Circus prepared a schedule of the equipment needed. After bidding, it issued a contract for almost everything that contractors and their subs would use as the job progressed.

Ahern Rentals of Las Vegas won the equipment contract, and it was no small piece of business. When the work started, an Ahern trailer and equipment yard were established on-site and staffed by a coordinator and three full-time mechanics. Ahern also scheduled and conducted on-site training for all the potential operators of the equipment.

When construction was at its peak, 600 machines were on-site, of which 125 were telescoping booms. Ahern had in stock all the construction equipment needed for the job, except some of the heavy earth-moving equipment. Following the job, it was scheduled to be distributed among other Ahern rental facilities in Nevada, California, Utah, Colorado and Arizona.

Ahern's involvement made the job a lot easier. Instead of calling a rental company and making arrangements to have machinery delivered to the site, contractors went to Ahern's on-site trailer at Mandalay Bay when they needed equipment, got it, used it and returned it. The procedure made machinery management much easier. Contractors could count on a reliable supply of equipment. Uncertain supplies of the right tools for the job did not delay construction of the hotel, and the site was cleaner and better organized without a multitude of vendors coming and going.

The procedure also meant that, no matter how small the contractor or how little equipment they needed, they always got a favorable rental rate. Circus Circus Development got a break, too. Since equipment had been rented in "bulk," its contractors got lower prices. In turn, they could price their work proportionally lower.

For Vaughn, the equipment rental arrangement meant that even though he had widely varying needs, getting his aerial work platforms on short notice wasn't a problem. He could contact the on-site Ahern trailer the afternoon before he needed a boom or scissorlift and get delivery the next morning.

Ahern has always supplied Snorkel telescoping booms, not only for the Mandalay Bay job, but for other work during the Las Vegas construction bonanza. These booms have a proportional control system for the lift and rotation functions, with ramp-on action so the boom starts its motion smoothly and slowly even if the controls are jammed to the full on position. The design means that it is easier to control the platform movement.

Of all the booms that Ahern has available, ranging up to 126-foot platform height, the most popular is the Snorkel TB 60 straight 60-foot telescoping boom. With a 66-foot working height and 50-foot horizontal reach, it has the working parameters most often requested by construction users.

Most overhead work is less than the working height of the boom. However, because building supplies and debris are usually strewn around the exterior walls, the boom must reach horizontally over obstructions to reach the uppermost work location.

The House of Blues dome represents an example of how the combination of height and reach is important in a boom. While the dome was no more than 30 feet above the ground, workers had to reach horizontally to get there. To reach the dome, the booms had to stay on driveways to preserve the landscaping and extend over the plantings alongside the curbs.

With so much activity on the jobsite, having an on-site rental company like Ahern makes sense for the work atop the dome as well as for the bottom line.