Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Look Back At MGM Grand Adventures Part 5

Editor's note: This is the 5th part of a series looking back at the park. Don't miss Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

When we left off we had just started to cover one of the larger sections of MGM Grand Adventures, Tumbleweed Gulch, later known as Gold Rush Junction.

© Mike Brister

Aside from the Over The Edge log flume, Tumbleweed Gulch's other main attraction was You're In The Movies! The building it took place in was later renamed the Gold Rush Theatre after the show was removed.
You're In The Movies was a show in which "participants are drawn from the audience, costumed and given their scripts. Magically, their performances are electronically combined with pre-filmed scenes."

It sounds as though the attraction was a much bigger version of the touristy vendors who put you into a movie. I didn't see it though, so I'm not totally sure. When I visited the park in 1997 a show titled "Winging It!" with clint Carvalho was showing in the theatre. Clint was known for his act that involved many trained birds, and a bowtie.

The Rio Grande Cantina was an outdoor stage and "beer garden" that was able to be rented for private events, as well as have seasonal entertainment.

Both Photos © Mike Brister

When the park was reduced in size the Rio Grande Cantina was razed to make room for the Lightning Bolt roller coaster. I don't think it was being used much at that point, except perhaps for private parties. The draw of having a roller coaster seemed to be key to the park operators, so the decision was made to bring back Lightning Bolt.

The entrance arch was retained from the Rio Grande and used as the entrance structure to the Lightning Bolt, which also kept it's name. Originally, the ride was rebuilt exactly as it was when it was on the other side of the theme park, only now it was outside.

The ride had just opened when I visited in summer 1997, so recently that the park maps still listed it as "coming soon." It was only a few months later that the ride closed again, this time to be expanded.

The park contracted with Arrow Dynamics to greatly expand the coaster. The new track length, 2,400 feet, was more than double it's original 1,100 feet. A new lift was built as well, located immediately at the end of the original track, which took the trains up 69 feet.

In this image the original track is in green, the expanded track in blue. The new track stretched out directly over the Grand Canyon Rapids ride, providing some nice interaction between the two.

Here we see some photos that I grabbed when the ride was being listed as for sale. In the top you can see the old track and the new track together. The second lift went up over the river rapids and then down a curving drop. From here there were a couple bunny hills, and a helix as well.

To finish off Tumbleweed Gulch, there was also a Shooting Gallery and some games located throughout the area. This section actually remained intact until the park closed. Lightning Bolt and Over The Edge continued to run, and the Gold Rush Theatre was used occasionally as well.

One of the biggest areas of the park that were changed over the years was the central lagoon. It was separated by a bridge, seen below, and eventually both sides of it were re-purposed to some degree in order to accommodate new attractions.

© Mike Brister

The section furthest back, bordering New Orleans Street (we'll cover that area next), Tumbleweed Gulch, and the Salem Waterfront was partially filled in for a towering new attraction named SkyScreamer.

SkyScreamer opened in 1996 and (at the time) held the record for being the tallest Sky Coaster in existence. The park's official description gives the details:

"The king of rides that visitors musn't pass up is SkyScreamer, the world's tallest Skycoaster. Visible for miles, this 250 ft. tall ride resembles the St. Louis arch and bring new meaning to the words "thrill ride." The experience is part skydiving and part hang-gliding. To get a real sense of the height, just look up at the 25th floor of the hotel!"

Those who chose to ride SkyScreamer (and I proudly am one of those) were hoisted up to around 230 ft. above the ground. After a countdown the riders pulled the ripcord and fell into a 100 ft. freefall leading to a 70 m.p.h. swing out over the park.

Here's a pretty neat commercial for the attraction that was uploaded to YouTube:

Lots of great shots of the park's other rides and attraction in there, too! SkyScreamer was a pay extra attraction, like most Sky Coasters around the world. It remained at the park until it closed for good. I know it was for sale at one point but I'm not sure if it's reopened elsewhere or not.

We're getting toward the end folks! Two more themed areas to cover, plus a look at the park and rides after it closed. Coming soon!