Image: Volcano makeover
Anonymous  /  ASSOCIATED PRESS
This undated graphic rendition of the Mirage hotel and casino provided by the design firm WET shows erupting volcano on the Strip in Las Vegas.
By Associated Press Writer
updated 9/10/2008 11:32:14 AM ET 2008-09-10T15:32:14

Real volcanoes may take millennia to form, but in Las Vegas they can take just 20 years to look dated.

That's what The Mirage hotel-casino concluded before it mounted a $25 million facelift of its iconic erupting volcano on the Las Vegas Strip.

The faux rock fountain first erupted in 1989 and its bursting spray of water lighted red to look like lava is among the city's classic sights for strolling pedestrians. The volcano was among the flashiest early casino spectacles — added to deliver whimsy, wow factor and gamblers.

Still, the casino concluded, it could be so much more.

The volcano is getting 120 new fireball-throwing devices that will be choreographed to erupt in sync with a rumbling drum score co-composed by former Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and piped into the desert air through a high-tech sound system, according to company officials who will officially announce renovation details Wednesday.

The project won't be completed until later this year.

Some of the fireball devices will spout gas flames 12 feet in the air, while others ooze fiery "lava" down the volcano's crevices. The flames will appear to burst close to passers-by — but not too close.

"It looks dangerous, but in reality it's not. We just want people to stand back on their heels," said Jim Doyle, the director of new technologies at the Sun Valley, Calif.-based design firm WET.

WET is perhaps best known as the firm behind the Bellagio hotel's fountains, and Doyle acknowledges the dancing water jets just down the Strip were an inspiration for the volcano's new look.

He spent two years developing a fire-shooting device that could sleep in the volcano's surrounding lagoon during the day and emerge at night for hourly shows. The miniature robots can be choreographed, but in the foreseeable future the fireballs will dance to Hart's score, he said.

Along with longtime creative partner Zakir Hussain, Hart said he brought in dozens of instruments to reinterpret the sound and the vibration of "the Earth belching."

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"It's our version of a birthing of a volcano, which is filled with a lot of different kinds of emotional content, anticipation and anxiety. It's filled with magic and power," Hart said. "You might even be able to feel the lava coming down on top of you." Slideshow: Vegas then and now

This bigger, better volcano is the last piece of the 20-year-old resort's recent overhaul. Owner MGM Mirage Inc. has spent $110 million upgrading rooms and suites at The Mirage, as well as adding a new nightclub, restaurants and the Cirque du Soleil's Beatles-themed "Love."

Mirage President Scott Sibella said he wished the property's signature feature was a little closer to the new indoor attractions. Since the volcano first erupted, casinos have learned to put such features inside to bring people closer to their casinos.

Sibella said The Mirage may someday add a bridge connecting the street-level volcano to the casino entrance.

"It does draw thousands of people for every eruption," he said, "but the challenge is getting them inside the property."

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Welcome to Vegas

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  1. Welcome to Las Vegas

    The Bellagio's fountain show entertains visitors nightly. In the background is Bally's Las Vegas, left, and Paris Las Vegas, which has a 50-story Eiffel Tower replica in front. Over 37.5 million people visit Las Vegas each year. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Fremont Street Experience

    Located in downtown Las Vegas, this exciting pedestrian promenade is home to approximately 16 million lights, making it one of the largest LED screens in the world. (Brian Jones / Las Vegas News Bureau) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Looking for Lady Luck

    Casion visitors play slot machines at the Mirage Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Dunking Elvis

    An Elvis impersonator performs a slam dunk during the 2007 NBA All-Star Game on February 18, 2007, at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. (Jesse D. Garrabrant / NBAEGetty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Grand casinos

    Lights from passing vehicles are seen in front of the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Poker face

    Jamie Gold, right, of California and Paul Wasicka of Colorado go head-to-head on the final table of the World Series of Poker no-limit Texas Hold 'em main event at the Rio Hotel & Casino on Aug. 11, 2006, in Las Vegas. Gold outlasted more than 8,700 other poker players to win the top prize of $12 million. Wasicka won just over $6.1 million for finishing second. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Glitz and glamour

    A Canon display is seen inside the Las Vegas Convention Center at the Consumer Electronics Show. Las Vegas is the nation's top business travel destination, with easy airline access, numerous hotel rooms, low rates, plentiful convention facilities and a wide range of dining and entertainment options. (Karl Polverino / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Over-the-top entertainment

    Performers ride a Volkswagen Beetle across the stage during a preview of "The Beatles LOVE by Cirque du Soleil" at the Mirage Hotel & Casino on June 27, 2006, in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A New York minute

    The New York-New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas recreates the Manhattan skyline, complete with replicas of the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building and Brooklyn Bridge. (Courtesy of MGM MIRAGE) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Entertainment mecca

    Kenny Chesney performs "Out Last Night" at the 44th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas on April 5, 2009. (Mark J. Terrill / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Tying the knot

    From left, Elvis Presley impersonator Norm Jones plays guitar as Bruce Barnett of Virginia Beach, Va., escorts his daughter Gayle to her wedding ceremony at the Graceland Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Graceland is the oldest wedding chapel in Las Vegas and offers ceremonies with or without Elvis impersonators. (David Mcnew / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Explosive attraction

    The $25 million, newly redesigned volcano display in front of the Mirage Hotel & Casino features 150 choreographed FireShooters sending fireballs more than 12 feet in the air and a custom soundtrack created by Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and Indian tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images for MGM Mirage) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A night on the Strip

    Hotels and casinos line the Las Vegas Strip. From thrilling roller coasters to erupting volcanos to art museums, Las Vegas' many attractions appeal to people of all ages and interests. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Fight night

    David Diaz and Manny Pacquiao fight during the fourth round of the WBC Lightweight Championship at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on June 28, 2008, in Las Vegas. Pacquiao won in a ninth-round knockout. (Harry How / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Day at the races

    Rookie driver Shawn Langdon earned his first No. 1 qualifying position of his career at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on April 4, 2009, in Las Vegas. (Richard Wong / NHRA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Fabulous shopping

    The Juicy Couture retail store at The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace is seen before the grand opening February 5, 2009, in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images for Juicy Couture) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Stunning shows

    Buyi Zama as “Rafiki” in the opening number “The Circle of Life” from THE LION KING Las Vegas. (Joan Marcus / Disney) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A slice of Italy

    Visitors take a gondola ride at The Venetian in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Get into the groove

    Dina Buell, left, and Carla Giordano, both from California, dance at the pool at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino during Rehab, the resort's weekly pool party, in 2005 in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Let’s get this party started

    Party goers gather for the grand opening of LAX Nightclub Las Vegas in 2007. (Chris Weeks / WireImage) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Big laughs

    Comedian Ellen DeGeneres performs at a taping of ''Ellen's Even Bigger Really Big Show'' during The Comedy Festival at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace in 2008 in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. A kingly stay

    The Excalibur Hotel and Casino features a castle motif with newly refurbished hotel rooms. (Courtesy of MGM MIRAGE) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. A dancing fountain

    Visitors are silhouetted against the backdrop of The Bellagio's fountain show on the Las Vegas Strip. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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