Mirage Volcano Preservation Effort Is About Saving Las Vegas Strip Memories

Posted on: May 27, 2022, 05:26h. 

Last updated on: May 27, 2022, 10:34h.

This Memorial Day weekend could be one of the last holidays to watch the faux volcano explode in front of The Mirage. The Las Vegas Strip iconic attraction could soon be dismantled. Memories tied with it may fade, too, unless preservationists succeed in their effort.

The artificial volcano in front of The Mirage
The artificial volcano in front of The Mirage, pictured above. Signatures continue to add up on a petition which tries to save the iconic attraction on the Las Vegas Strip. (Image: Change.org)

So far, 6,343 people who support keeping the volcano in place have signed an online petition on Change.org. They expect to present the signatures to Hard Rock International. That company will take over operations of The Mirage from MGM Resorts International later this year.

Alan M. Feldman, a former MGM executive now a Distinguished Fellow, Responsible Gaming at UNLV, said it is comforting that people care enough about the volcano to want to keep it in place.

“I feel a great kinship to everyone who signed the petition,” Feldman recently told Casino.org. “The volcano has great meaning in their lives, just as it did in my own.”

I don’t doubt that there are people who have important memories linked to that volcano — being on a date, their first trip to Las Vegas, etc.,” agreed Michael Green, a UNLV history professor, in a statement to Casino.org.

But there are practical reasons it could be dismantled.

Would Look Silly

The artificial volcano does not fit with Hard Rock’s typical theme of having a guitar outside of their gaming venues.

“Unfortunately, it would look silly in front of a different hotel, out of place in a new age of design and architecture,” Feldman said.

He recommended it is better to look forward to when MGM Resorts — which retained ownership of the name — builds a new Mirage someplace else.

“There, a new and upgraded volcano can properly serve the purpose of spectacularly welcoming guests and setting the tone for their memorable experiences,” Feldman said.

He explained the history of the Las Vegas Strip is “all about change.”

We replace, when they no longer have the relevance of their earliest days. In their place, come ever-more spectacular attractions,” Feldman said. The new attractions provide excitement for the younger generations, he adds.

The volcano has been outside of the South Pacific-themed Mirage Las Vegas since 1989.

In the mid-1980s, former casino mogul Steve Wynn said that Las Vegas did not need another new casino, but it sure needed an attraction, Green recalled. Elaine Wynn, his then-wife, apparently came up with the idea for the volcano.

“The opening of The Mirage in 1989 triggered a boom on the Strip, figuratively in terms of the money that was made and the structures that were built, and literally in terms of the implosions of older hotels,” Green said.

The Mirage did a lot to change perceptions of Las Vegas, too. When it opened, most of the revenue on the Strip came from gambling — about two-thirds. Now, one-third comes from gambling, the rest from attractions, Green said.

“The volcano is a free attraction, but it is part of the evolution of the tourism experience in Las Vegas,” he explained.

Looking back, Feldman said the volcano is symbolic of a time in Las Vegas when casinos were transforming into integrated resorts. Everything was “in costume” with a theme, so the volcano was a “perfect way” of announcing The Mirage, he added.

Volcano Linked to Photos, Videos

People have come to Las Vegas to create memories, too, Feldman said. Many took photos and videos in front of the volcano.

These can be deeply personal or of personal significance, so it’s no wonder that there are many who would rather the volcano not go away,” Feldman said.

For instance, one frequent visitor to Las Vegas, Frank McNeff, posted on Casino.org, “I rather look at [The] Mirage volcano” than a “gaudy guitar.”

The petition on Change.org says the volcano is among the “most unique forms of art and entertainment.”

Tourists and locals have turned out nightly between 8 and 11 pm to wait for the shows. Over six years ago, MGM cut back on the number of shows, apparently to save money.

Still, it continues to rumble several times nightly, followed by the flow of simulated lava. Flames jump many feet into the air during the presentation. The show also features the aroma of pina colada. The eruption additionally includes a soundtrack composed by Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and composer Zakir Hussain.

Hard Rock, VICI Deal

When Hard Rock takes over, a guitar-shaped hotel tower is expected to replace the volcano, according to initial architectural designs. Hard Rock will pay $1.075 billion in cash for the operating assets of The Mirage, according to a company statement.

The real estate assets of The Mirage were owned by MGM Growth Properties. The entity was acquired by VICI Properties for $17.2 billion. The deal makes the firm the largest casino landlord on the Las Vegas Strip.