VIDEO VAULT | The 'family friendly' phase of Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS (KSNV) —
Summer break is here for students in the Clark County School District, and many parents are thinking about where to go on vacation with the kids.
Twenty-five years ago, there was an opportunity to enjoy the type of fun found in Anaheim's Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm without traveling any great distance, and instead making it a "stay-cation."
That's because in the early 1990s, Las Vegas was going through what is now referred to as its "family friendly" phase.
"The park covers 33 acres, with 12 more set aside for future development," said News 3's Bob Clausen in 1992, describing a busy construction site on the southwest corner of Koval and Harmon. "The park will boast nine themed streets. You can see one of them taking shape here."
Clausen was describing what would be known as MGM Grand Adventures behind the namesake hotel that was being built on the northeast corner of Tropicana and the Strip. The idea was to combine the feel of being on a movie set with some of the standard fare familiar to theme park visitors.
"We have a flume ride," said MGM spokesman Dan Wade in March of 1993 as construction progressed. "It's called 'Over the Edge.' Like Splash Mountain at Disneyland, it has a 30-foot drop and a 40-foot drop from that. Guaranteed to get you wet! 'Deep Earth Exploration' is the first of its kind. You hit something or you see something, you'll have the movement of reality. It'll be first-hand."
On December 18, 1993, the crowds showed up. After a countdown to the ribbon-cutting, the park was filled with visitors. To the younger visitors, a comparison to Disneyland might have seemed appropriate.
"You come to MGM Grand and you see, like, happiness and everything," one girl told News 3. "It's like everyone who works here has a big smile on their face like they're happy to see anybody who comes in."
But once the initial excitement dropped off, so did the numbers. Las Vegas is, after all, first and foremost a town for grown-ups. The park tried lowering the entrance fee from $25 to $15. Another problem was that perhaps there was more money to be made in the resort than on the rides.
"Of course, the MGM's going to get their money out of you one way or the other," reported News 3's Rick Fuentes from a turnstile in January of 1994. "They're hoping that if you save $10 at the theme park, you'll spend it up there in the casino. But the MGM has divided its family from its adult entertainment. I've been counting. And it’s exactly 387 steps from the entrance to the Grand Adventures Theme Park, to the very last slot machine."
MGM then tried to up the adventure level by adding the Sky-Screamer, a giant swing that dropped daring customers into free fall from a 250-foot tower.
But MGM Grand Adventures still wasn't a money maker. The park was first reduced in size, then eliminated entirely in 2002.
These days, you'll find an MGM condo complex and part of an expanded pool area where the theme park used to stand.
By the end of the decade, Las Vegas had largely dropped its attempt at being family-oriented. Circus-Circus still has its Adventuredome, and up the street you'll find some rides at the Stratosphere. But for the most part, parents might do well to take the kids elsewhere. The Strip is for grownups.