Monday, Sept. 27, 1999 | 9:55 a.m.
In a city known for its replicas of famous places - from Paris to the Big Apple - another icon is on the horizon. Plans are underway for a $33 million expansion of the Showcase mall on the Las Vegas Strip, with the new project replicating the Grand Canyon.
Groundbreaking is set for November on a 43,000-square-foot expansion of the mall, next to the MGM Grand Hotel. Completion is set for mid-2000.
Half the space will be a Grand Canyon-themed shopping area.
The project is being developed by M&K Enterprises of Las Vegas and the Hawaiian architectural firm of AM Partners.
AM Partners hatched the idea for the Grand Canyon shops. President Charles Lau said he chose the canyon theme to inject a natural quiet into a boisterous atmosphere.
"You already have M&M World and the (Official) All-Star Cafe. Everybody's got a big sign and it's as if everyone's trying to shout louder than the other," Lau said. "So we thought about what theme would be the opposite."
A natural theme might work, Lau reasoned, because studies show Las Vegas visitors not only want to see the neon, but also the mountains and the desert beauty.
Attractions will include a hovering helicopter, hourly thunderstorm shows and rope bridges for people to cross.
"We wanted to make the whole experience like an Indiana Jones adventure," Lau said.
The project will include 60 tons of textured cast rock to replicate the canyon's rugged walls. And to simulate flash floods, tanks in one end of the building will gush water hourly, to accompany thunderstorm sounds and special effects.
A second helicopter will probably be added, and people can sign up on the spot for aerial tours of the real Grand Canyon.
The Canyon experience is the latest move by Las Vegas to offer visitors a worldly experience. Resorts are themed to replicate a host of cities and countries, from New York-New York to the Egyptian-themed Luxor, the Venetian and the newly-opened Paris Las Vegas