Las Vegas Sun

December 15, 2018

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Adventuredome at Circus Circus celebrates 20 years of family fun and thrill rides


Leila Navidi

Tom Nolan was night manager at the old Scandia mini-golf park off I-15 before he opened Circus Circus’ amusement park.

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Maureen Staley, left, and her grandson, Kaden Staley, 8, both of Huntington Beach, Calif., prepare to ride the Big Shot on top of the Stratosphere in Las Vegas Tuesday, June 7, 2011. Launch slideshow »
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When Tom Nolan started as a supervisor at Adventuredome, he had to ride the Canyon Blaster every morning as part of testing. No coffee necessary.

Celebrities, clowns, cupcakes and confetti will all be at play Thursday when Adventuredome at Circus Circus celebrates its 20th birthday.

The casino — without hotel rooms — dates back to October 1968 when the $15 million pink-and-white, oval-shaped, tent-like gaming area with circus acts appeared as a big top — the largest permanent big top in the world to this day — over football field-size land on the Strip. Jugglers, acrobats, clowns and circus animal acts were kept separate from the casino on a second level.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board ordered it shut six months later over money problems and links to the Teamsters Union in Chicago, but with the resignation of then Caesars Palace owner Jay Sarno, they delayed the closing order.

In 1969, the hotel added its Hippodrome showroom with the show “Nudes in the Night” featuring dancing waters from Radio City Music Hall in New York. It took until 1972 for the casino to add a 15-story hotel tower with 400 rooms. Another 15-story, 395-room tower was added in 1975, and the 421-space RV parking lot followed in 1979.

Another 810 rooms were added in 1980, spread out in five three-story buildings. Finally in 1986 came a 29-story tower with 1,188 rooms and a 17,000-square-foot casino, making it the largest in the world with more than 100,000 square feet of gaming space.

It was August 1993 that Adventuredome opened as the first theme park in Las Vegas, a 200-foot high, 5-acre, $90-million dome encased behind 8,615 panes of glass featuring the world’s only indoor double-loop, double-corkscrew roller coaster: the Canyon Blaster, which hits speeds of 55 mph.

The hotel’s Midway was featured in the 1971 James Bond film “Diamonds Are Forever.” The Midway also showed up in Mark Hamill’s 1978 film “Corvette Summer.” Other movies shot there: “Baby Geniuses,” “Austin Powers International Man of Mystery” and “Honey, I Blew Up the Kids.”

In the TV series “Vega$,” private detective Dan Tana played by actor Robert Urich lived in a converted warehouse next to Circus Circus, and nearly every episode showed him driving past the casino in his classic Ford Thunderbird.

MGM Resorts International now owns and operates the property it acquired when it purchased the Mandalay Bay resort group, which had begun as Circus Circus and then renamed itself after building the south Strip property.

Expect to see reality TV star Holly Madison, Luxor headliners Jabbawockeez and Excalibur headliners “Tournament of Kings” join in the “Happy Birthday” sing-along around a 2,000-piece tower of cupcakes Thursday morning.

Today, Las Vegas VIPs, hotel executives and folks associated with the property through the years received day passes to ride the attractions for free. Among them: a carousel, bumper cars, games, children’s rides, laser tag, a bowling alley, an 18-course miniature golf course and the Xtreme Zone, where thrill-seekers can climb 40-foot-high walls and bounce on a bungee trampoline.

Celebrities from Holly to Corey Feldman are regulars among the 3 million annual visitors to ride the Canyon Blaster, Inverter, Sling Shot, Chaos and the gravity-defying Disk O motorcycle-like, jaw-dropping 22-mph spin experience. Twice an hour, there are free shows from 11 a.m. to midnight featuring aerialists, high-wire walkers, trapeze artists and clowns.

Circus Circus today stretches out over nearly 70 acres with buildings covering nearly 3 million square feet. Total guest rooms now are 3,744, plus, the RV park and Adventuredome that’s open year round and kept at 72 degrees.

It was New Year’s Day 2009 that the 50 millionth visitor arrived. The single-day attendance record of 41,182 visitors was recorded in November 2005. Today, the park has 25 rides and attractions — the Rim Runner with its 60-foot-waterfall drop was removed and demolished in February. The El Loco rollercoaster takes its place in December with 1,300 feet of track taking 75 seconds to ride, only the second of its kind in the United States and fifth in the world.

“It’s a significant move in our efforts to entice a new generation of roller-coaster lovers,” said Tom Noland, vice president of operations for Adventuredome. “As we hit 20 years, we are committed to reinventing the experience with fresh and exciting rides for new and repeat guests.”

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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