When you think MGM and theme parks, the first thought that may pop in your head is
Disney-MGM Studios, now known as just Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park. But that was a licensing deal between Disney and MGM that started in 1985 and lasted until 2008. But this was not the only time that MGM was used for a theme park.
Enter “MGM Grand Adventures”, a park in Las Vegas located across from the MGM Grans Hotel/Casino lasting from 1993 – 2002.
When MGM Grand opened in Las Vegas in 1993, part of the overall experience included
a small theme park, emphasis on small. The park was only 33 acres in size as it was not meant to be the main attraction.
It was just an add-on in the construction while MGM mainly focused on the hotel/casino. At the time the lobby for the hotel had a Wizard of Oz theme where guests could follow a Yellow Brick Road directly to the park’s entrance.
The park featured 9 attractions with 8 unique sections: Casablanca Plaza, New York
Street, Asian Village, French Street, Salem Waterfront, Tumbleweed Gulch, Rio Grande Cantina, New Orleans Street, and Olde England Street.
The Rides consisted of an indoor roller coaster called “Lighting Bolt”, an underground simulation ride called “Deep Earth Exploration”, a boat ride called “Backlot River Tour” (which combined Jungle Cruse with the Universal Studio Tour), A dark ride called “The Haunted Mine”, a raft ride called “Grand Canyon Rapids”, a log ride called “Over the Edge”, a bumper car ride called “Parisian Taxis” and two stage shows “King Looey’s Theater” (Later Renamed “Manhattan Theater”) and “Pirates Cove”.
The Park featured a few cartoon character mascots, specifically King Looey, a kid friendly version of the Company’s Leo the Lion, as well as licensed characters Popeye and Betty Boop.
MGM then faced some legal trouble when Disney filed a complaint, stating
that the licensing deal they had with MGM gave them exclusive rights to use the MGM name and logo on a theme park. Disney filed against them saying it would hurt their business.
This case was the 1989 MGM Lawsuit against Disney operating Disney-MGM Studios as a theme park/film production studio.
On October 23, 1992, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Curtis B. Rappe ruled that Disney had the right to continue using the Disney-MGM Studios name on film product produced at the Florida facility, and that MGM Grand had the right to build a Las Vegas theme park using the MGM name and logo as long as it did not share the same studio backlot theme as Disney’s property.
The park was mainly meant for Resort Guests but was also opened to the public. However not many non-resort visitors came due to high ticket prices for what some would call a mini theme park.
They expected about 10,000 Guests per day but upon opening these numbers weren’t really met. The company tried to entice visitors with special Halloween and Christmas events, with the park even being renamed to “Scream Park” every October.
Due to lower than expected attendance, and only after just 3 years of opening the park was reduced in size by nearly 40% in 1996. It was cut to make room for a new convention center and pool area.
As such the Deep Earth Exploration and Backlot River Tour were demolished and attractions like The Manhattan Theater and The Haunted Mine were permanently closed.
In 1998 the Park began only operating seasonally as the park’s attendance continued to decline.
In early 2000 MGM decided that the land should be repurposed as the revenue continued to dwindle. On September 4th, 2000 the park was officially closed to the public and the rides started to be listed for sale. The Park was allowed to still operate but only for business and events with over 50 people and with only 3 attractions, specifically the theaters, that were still operating.
On May 28th 2002, the day after Memorial Day, the Park permanently closed.
The space where the park stood is currently occupied by three 40-Story Condo Towers and a Golf Course. Many critics state the park failed due to the lack of exciting rides and the fact that most visitors were from California, who had far more exciting parks.
Had the park been more of a priority, with bigger rides and exciting experiences, it could have lasted longer.
If they had done this, who knows if it would still stand today.
Pirates & Princesses (PNP) is an independent, opinionated fan-powered news blog that covers Disney and Universal Theme Parks, Themed Entertainment and related Pop Culture from a consumer's point of view. Opinions expressed by our contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of PNP, its editors, affiliates, sponsors or advertisers. PNP is an unofficial news source and has no connection to The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal or any other company that we may cover.