Mirage Volcano makes sure tourism stays hot on the Strip

A rendering of the Volcano at The Mirage, which will flame-on in early December.
MGM Mirage

It was Jimi Hendrix who once said, “Let me stand next to your fire.” Now it is Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, co-composer Zakir Hussain and the wizards at WET (who designed the Fountains at Bellagio) who are bringing the fire to you. If you’re walking along the Strip after the first couple of weeks in December, at least.

Formally announced today at a news conference at the Love Theater at The Mirage was the new Volcano, to replace the old Mirage volcano (lowercase to indicate its irrelevance in the face of this Volcano) that has been an attraction at the hotel for nearly 20 years. But the old volcano is a mere sparkler to the new Volcano’s Roman candle. The new feature, to open in early December, will use 120 FireShooters, small cylinders that fire … well, fire … from the lagoon beneath the volcano’s main cone. According to a news release fired off in advance of today’s news conference, water will shoot 120 feet high out of that cone, and flames and fireballs four feet in diameter will be fired 12 to 15 feet in the air. Hart and Hussain have collaborated on a thumping, thundering soundscape that reminds of the percussive stylings of Blue Man Group, if BMG added steel drums and a Pythagorean monochord (I have no idea, either) to its stacks of PVC pipe.

Hussain, for those not familiar (and even those who are) is an acclaimed percussionist of world music who teamed with Hart on the sound bed for the closing scene of Apocalypse Now and the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Both spoke to the herded journalists and Hart got off a few good lines. When asked about the close proximity of tourists to the flames, he said, “We’re investors in a new burn center across town.”

I am of the opinion that any news conference can be made better by the inclusion of Mickey Hart.

But the Volcano is to be looked at, and felt, mostly. So there are some questions, chiefly: What about all that heat? The fire emanating from the Volcano can reach temperatures of 900 degrees, as WET Director of Technical Resources Jim Doyle said today. Because the Volcano will stretch nearly to the sidewalk in front of The Mirage, some spectators will be just 30 feet away from the racing streams of fire. Doyle said he even placed a small thermometer on his forehead and measured how much warmer his skin would be as it is exposed to the heat. The answer: 11 degrees. And when the temperature on the Strip in July and August, even at night, exceeds 100 degrees – that’s a lotta heat for our fleshy, fair-skinned visitors from the Midwest.

But as Mirage President Scott Sibella said after the news conference, the Volcano will not erupt during the day in summer months, and he expects the attraction will be so captivating that tourists will be drawn to it regardless even if it seems as a kind of firewall in front of The Mirage main entrance. “We want people to see it and go, ‘Wow! What’s the inside like?’” Cooler, for starters.

Sibella also said that the show – which at 4 ½ minutes is twice as long as the first volcano production – would be coordinated so it would not run directly opposite the Sirens of TI across the street (MGM Mirage owns both hotels and would like not to have them competing for foot traffic). Also, high winds are a concern. The attraction will shut down automatically when the wind hits 7 mph, which is bad news for Mickey’s burn center but good news for the rest of us.

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Mickey Hart working on his volcanic percussion piece.

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