Sunday, December 14, 2008
Las Vegas Mirage introduces new face of volcano
Since the hotel's opening in 1989, its mock volcano -- towering over a 3-acre lagoon along Las Vegas Boulevard -- has become a Sin City landmark.
The free attraction has been dormant since February, though, while it underwent a face-lift. And far from just a few tucks here and there, this is a $25-million overall redo.
A motorcycle jump on the brink of '09
Those seeking an even hotter spectacle may want to drop by New Year's Eve. That's the night motorcycle daredevil Robbie Knievel is preparing to jump more than 200 feet across the lagoon as the jets shoot fire and water skyward. Fox TV will broadcast the event live, beginning at 8 p.m., with the jump scheduled for 9 p.m. Knievel is expected to travel 100 mph during the feat, which is to begin on hotel property and end on the Strip.
The stunt will take place 41 years to the day after Robbie's father, Evel Knievel, was seriously injured when he lost control of his bike during a jump over the fountains at Caesars Palace, next door to the Mirage.
-- Jay Jones
The creators of the new volcano, Wet Design in Sun Valley, Calif., have some pretty impressive credentials. Besides designing water features for Disney and Universal, this team also did the stunning, dancing fountains at Bellagio, just a few blocks down the boulevard.
"What Wet does is sort of 'nature under control,' the highly stylized, highly choreographed pieces using water," says Jim Doyle, a company director. "This is the first time we've been able to do it -- and had a client crazy enough to try it -- with flame. That's the big change here, taking a quantum step forward with flame choreography."
Doyle calls this latest creation "a beast." It thrives on a diet of water and natural gas, both of which are fed through a maze of pipes behind the volcano's artificial rock facade.
Submerged in the lagoon are 120 sophisticated flamethrowers that will send jets of fire skyward on cue. Choreographers working on laptops are busy fine-tuning the fountains of flame -- and water too -- so that the software program matches the original music to the movements of the fire and water.
Performed on drums and the tabla, an Indian percussion instrument, the music has a primal beat that's well-suited to a show that replicates the belching of molten lava from deep inside the Earth. The score is performed by Grammy winners Mickey Hart, a former drummer for the Grateful Dead, and Zakir Hussain, a master musician from India.
As the music builds to a crescendo near the close of the 4 1/2 -minute performance, designer Doyle has Daisy, the massive flamethrower that's mounted atop the volcano, ready to leap into action.
"It's an exclamation point for the show," Doyle says of the giant torch, which is twice the size of a previous creation of his in Australia.
"It doesn't [shoot fire] up as much as it does out," he adds. The result is a temperature spike that far surpasses that of any backyard patio heater, turning a chilly winter night into a summer scorcher.
"This one's going to blow you away," says Scott Sibella, president of the Mirage. He adds that the costly attraction is designed to showcase a $110-million makeover of the entire property. It's been completed just in time for the hotel's 20th anniversary celebration.
Sibella says next year's advertising campaign will feature the catch phrase, "Have you seen the new Mirage?"
"Some of our competitors have let their properties go to the wayside," he says. On the other hand, Sibella says that -- when it comes to popularity and revenue -- the Mirage "still does very well for a 19- [or] 20-year-old property."
Jones is a freelance writer.