Friday, May 21, 2010

A Look Back At MGM Grand Adventures Part 1

Since I visited the park in 1997 I've had a bit of an obsession with MGM Grand Adventures Theme Park, formerly located at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. I'm not sure why I've always been so interested, but sometimes it's better not to question things, right?

I've covered some odds and ends about the park here on NPN, almost a couple years ago at this point. Recently a reader found the site and saw my grumblings that there just weren't enough photos of the park online - and made me aware of the extensive amount they had! Needless to say the spark has been reignited now that I've been granted permission to feature the photos in a multi-part series here on NPN. I'd like to not only show off the wonderful photos, but also provide as must insight into the park as I can dig up.

But before the photos, let's start back at the start.

We all know the story - the early 1990s saw Las Vegas attempt to become more family friendly, and give parents a reason to justify taking the kids along with them to Sin City. MGM had already opened with a Wizard of Oz theme, complete with animatronic characters inside the entrance. "The City Of Entertainment" was the resort's slogan, and considering the massive size of the property calling it a city was a fair assessment.

Their next step in going family friendly was to build a complete movie theme park in the back corner of the property, covering some 33 acres. One could easily say the park was modeled after Universal Studios, or even the Disney MGM Studios park, but all the attractions in Vegas were unique. The park originally opened in December, 1993 and employed such designers as R&R Creative Amusement Designs to bring the rides to life.

The above post card features concept art for the entire park, showing it's location tucked behind the hotel's green towers. It was quite a walk to the park from the Strip, but well worth it in my opinion. The park was a combination of several basic park amusements, all with a heavy theme, and some dark rides as well. Live entertainment was prominently featured as well in the various shows performed each day.

Here's a large scan of the park map from around it's opening. It'll help you get accustomed to the rides and attractions we'll be looking at. Also take note that Deep Earth Exploration wasn't quite ready when the park opened.

MGM Grand Adventures had eight themed areas, quite a lot for a small park. No section was too large, but great effort went into the theming. Several areas had building facades that were nothing more than that - facades - just to keep sight lines in check and improve atmosphere. Some rides fit their area's theme quite well, while others did not - such as Deep Earth Exploration in the Asian Village.

© Mike Brister

Here's a real treat, a blueprint style layout of the park from a preview brochure for the entire MGM Grand property. I always enjoy seeing a correctly scaled layout of a park. The main pathways were laid out such that most of the larger attractions were on the perimeter of the property. The center had a lagoon which featured the large "Cotton Blossom" riverboat which was actually a food service location.

© Mike Brister

Visitors to the park left the hotel in the area above, and were transported into Casablanca Plaza, the entrance area to the park. The Moroccan themed area featured your typical amenities found in at any theme park entrance - lockers, stroller rentals, etc.

© Mike Brister

There were also a couple retail locations, as well as a gourmet coffee shop, all set in appropriately themed buildings. The large tent structure on the left in the above image was an open air gift shop originally named King Looey's Hollywood Memorabilia.

Here's King Looey!

King Looey was the kid friendly version of the overall resort's mascot, Leo the Lion - and Looey also served as MGM Grand Adventures' mascot. I believe his presence diminished as the years went by, but upon opening he was featured prominently at the park.

© Mike Brister

This elaborately themed archway marked the entrance to the park proper, and also the second themed section of the park - New York Street. That'll have to wait for part 2, though!