Wednesday, May 14, 1997 | 11:59 a.m.
The old lion will roar no more.
Workers began dismantling the blocky -- some say tacky -- fiberglass lion's head at the Strip entrance of the MGM Grand Tuesday to make way for a sleek new symbol evoking the resort's entertainment roots.
By New Year's Eve, a new gold-colored, full-bodied lion statue will greet visitors to the MGM from atop a 25-foot-high pedestal surrounded by water fountains and dramatic nighttime lighting.
Weighing in at 50 tons and standing 45 feet tall, the new lion will be the largest statue in the United States built from polished gold-bronze, a metallic blend that will give the replacement a lustrous, shiny texture.
Removal of the current statute is expected to take two weeks, according to MGM spokeswoman Michele Tell. Installation of the new lion will begin in October.
The entire Strip entrance to the resort will be redesigned as part of a more than $250 million renovation of the MGM into a "City of Entertainment." The renovation includes construction of new restaurants, retail and convention areas.
Multimedia projection and light shows will be displayed on walls more than 80 feet tall that stretch along the Strip and Tropicana Avenue facades of the resort.
The MGM's former restaurant, retail and arcade area was redesigned as a Hollywood sound stage, the Studio Walk, featuring such restaurants as the Brown Derby, Emeril Legasse's New Orleans Fish House, Mark Miller's Coyote Cafe, Francho Nuschese's Tre Visi and La Scala, and the Dragon Court.
It also includes a Farmers' Market offering fast-food restaurants, a coffee shop and retail stores.
A 380,000-square-foot conference center, pool and spa are being constructed on 15 acres previously occupied by part of the MGM Grand Adventures theme park and surface-parking area.
The renovation also includes upgrades to suites, rooms and parking areas, additions to the theme park and redesigned casino areas. The MGM has one of the largest hotels in the world with more than 5,000 rooms.