Grand opens Adventures park

Las Vegas’s first theme park, MGM Grand Adventures sprawls over 33 acres of land — only two acres fewer than Disneyland in Anaheim covered when it opened.

The $ 120 million park features seven rides and five shows, plus theme areas and food and souvenir shops. There will also be 19 specially licensed walkaround characters on hand — including MGM Grand’s mascot lion”King Looey” and his court, images appearing in MGM Grand Adventures include the Three Stooges, Betty Boop, the Wizard of Oz and Popeye families of characters, and the inhabitants of Tom Ryan’s syndicated Western-themed comic strip, “Tumbleweeds.”

“We have gone to the best guys in the business, like Disney,” says Daniel M. Wade, senior VP and general manager, “and learned from their successes as well as their mistakes.” Wade and his team spent a year studying theme parks at Opryland in Nashville and Fiesta Texas in San Antonio.

“Our market research indicates that what people liked least at Disneyland was the long wait for rides,” says MGM Grand Hotel chairman Larry J. Woolf.

“Our solution is to monitor customer traffic. Although the park has a capacity of 16,000, allowing a maximum number of 8,000 people in at any time should result in queues no longer than 20 minutes each.”

Also aiding crowd control — as well as providing convenience to MGM Grand Adventures visitors — is a system of advance ticketing, so that customers can reserve their time well in advance; in a package with room reservations, if desired.

Also, many of the waiting areas, even outdoor ones, will feature air conditioning in the summer and heating in the cooler months, to ensure visitors’ maximum comfort.

Among the attractions at MGM Grand Adventures:

o Lightning Bolt. An indoor roller coaster featuring three-dimensional video projections of an imaginary ride through space, ending in a spectacular view of Las Vegas by night. It is, says Wade, “a screamer, with so much going on that it will take two or three rides to fully experience everything.”

o Deep Earth Exploration. A motion base simulator moving on a 352-foot track that is, Wade says, “about as close to virtual reality as you can get.” High-tech audio/visual effects take passengers into the earth for sights including a frozen lake, a molten lava bed and an erupting volcano.

o Backlot River Tour. This 15-minute boat ride travels through scenes reminiscent of films set in the Civil War era, and a mysterious jungle temple.

o Grand Canyon Rapids. Nine-seat innertubes whisk through dangerous foaming waters, past an animatronic gunfight and between towering cliffs.

o The Haunted Mine. Ore cars travel into the deep inner recesses of a Southwestern mine, encountering barricades, booby traps and the vengeful spirit of a long-dead medicine man.

o Over the Edge. The MGM Grand Adventures flume ride features spectacular drops of 23 feet and 42 feet.

o Parisian Taxis. Bumper cars with a Gallic twist, these specially-designed vehicles can take all the abuse of a Parisian traffic jam on Bastille Day.

o Live shows include “Dueling Pirates” engaging in brawling, swordplay and death-defying stunts aboard a lusty man o’war anchored in the 950-seat outdoor Pirates’ Cove Theatre; the “Cartoon Show” combining on-screen animation and live action in King Looey’s Theatre; “You’re in the Movies!,” in which participants re-enact scenes from favorite films and television shows combined with vintage original footage; and two productions in the 750-seat Magic Screen Theatre.

The first, “Kaleidoscope,” is a musical revue incorporating live and projected special effects, film and live performances; the second, “The Three Stooges,” combines vintage film clips and live-action lookalikes.

Food in MGM Grand Adventures will be available in a number of cuisines, featuring nationally-recognized names including Burger King, Kenny Rogers’ Roasters chicken, Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, plus Hamada’s Orient Express (a branch of the popular Las Vegas restaurant), Mamma Ilardo’s Pizzeria, the Cotton Blossom Cajun restaurant, Hildegarde’s Ice Cream Parlor, and coffee and fresh-baked pastries from Benninger’s Gourmet Coffee.

MGM Grand Adventures will be open daily beginning December 18, 1993. General admission is $ 25; $ 23 for military and seniors; and $ 20 for children ages 4- 12; children under 4 years old are admitted free.

Strollers, wheelchairs and lockers will be available for rental.

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