Hotel Histories

History of the MGM Grand

Opened as the Marina in 1975
Opened as MGM Grand December 18, 1993


The Marina Hotel and Casino opened in 1975, at 3805 Las Vegas Boulevard.

The resort held the Port of Call Restaurant. The decor was authentic seafaring with colorful nautical trappings. The casino held four poker tables, and a sports and racing book.

In 1980, Kirk Kerkorian's dream, the MGM Grand (now Bally's LV), became a tragedy. Even though the MGMs interior was rebuilt safer, Kerkorian knew that his dream would always be associated with death and tragedy.

He proceeded to buy the Marina in 1989, and changed its name to the MGM Marina. Seeing the Marina as a stable, solidly built resort, he decided not to destroy the resort but to build around it, making the Marina a part of his dream. The 100 acre Tropicana Country Club was also bought. On November 30, 1990, the Marina was closed and on October 7, 1991, ground breaking occurred to recreate Kerkorian's The City of Entertainment. A total of 1,500 workers put in 12,000 man hours per day with construction costs averaging $1 million each day.

On February 23, 1993, MGM celebrated a "topping off" ceremony with the placement of the last panel of emerald green glass hoisted onto one of the 30-story hotel towers. A total of 5,005 green balloons were released, each containing a gift certificate valid for one complimentary stay in one of the rooms.

On December 18, 1993, the $1 billion, 5,005 room dream became a reality making the MGM the largest hotel in the United States. The MGM Grand sat on approximately 112 acres, with 171,500 square feet of casino (larger than Yankee Stadium's field), eight restaurants, five lounges and bars, 23 retail shops, and 158,000 square feet of meeting space.

When entering the resort, guests were greeted by the characters from the Wizard of Oz on the yellow brick road. Looking up at the ceiling one could see the silhouette of the Wicked Witch of West flying, and various jack-in-the-boxes on top of some of the slot machines would have munchkins popping out.

The Emerald City Casino was a seven-story replica of the City of Oz, complete with The Wizard's Secret, a multi-media magic show. This casino was the largest of the four MGM Grand gaming areas with the Flying Monkey Bar contained inside. The Hollywood Casino contained bright lights & footlights, marquees, and celebrity look-alikes. One could have a drink in the Center Stage Lounge. The Monte Carlo Casino contained Baccarat with traditional table games with the Betty Boop Bar contained inside.

The Sports Casino contained horse-racing, race cars, baseball, football, and basketball. This sports book utilized state-of-the art equipment specially designed for the MGM. Its bar was the Turf Club Lounge.

All rooms contained color cable TVs with remote and in-room movies, AM/FM stereo clock radio, baths with marble tub and shower, and a choice of king or two queen size beds. The rooms contained lavish thick carpets, bedding, and drapes.

Restaurants included Haagen Daz' Ice Cream Shoppe; Oz Buffet Studio Cafe Coffee Shop, which was opened 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; Coyote Cafe for Santa Fe-style cooking; Wolfgang Puck Cafe for gourmet pizza & California cuisine; Sir Reginald's Steakhouse, Leonard's for Italian food; Dragon Court for Cantonese and Schezuan food; and Ocean Grill & The Cracked Crab for seafood. The One Liners Food Court contained Mama Ilardo's Pizzeria, Hamada Orient Express, McDonald's, Nathan's and Taco Bell.

Parking was accessed underneath the five-story domed porte cochere accessed on Tropicana Avenue. There was valet parking for 1,200 cars and self-parking for 4,800 vehicles. The video wall in the guest registration lobby featured 60 TV monitors screening original entertainment videos.

Stores included MGM Grand Adventure Store, Emerald City Gift Shop, MGM Grand & Co., Grand Spirits Liquor Shop, Front Page Newsstand, Marshall Rousso Collection, and Kenneth J. Lane.

The Grand Spa featured six Jacuzzi spas, steam and sauna, personal trainers, and pro shop. The resort held four tennis courts, all lit for night play. The Grand Oasis pool area was 144,000 square feet with a sandy beach entry, luxury cabanas, and the Sand Bar snack bar.

The 30,000 square foot Oz Midway and Video Arcade was located next to the Food Court.

The Youth Center was given to Director Mike Messner who helped create the Youth Hotel previously at the Las Vegas Hilton. The Youth Center had $30,000 of renovations before the center could be licensed by the county as an accommodation facility. The original designers failed to include two exits for each room, a handicapped accessible toilet, no water fountains and other things necessary to secure licensing.

The Adventures Theme was advertised almost as a separate entity from the resort. The park sat on 33 acres of land with 8 themed areas leading to 7 action rides and attractions, 4 theatres with 4 shows, 9 food and beverage outlets, and 12 retail shops. The themed areas were called Casablanca Plaza, New York Street, Asian Village, French Street, Salem Waterfront, Tumbleweed Gulch, New Orleans Square, and Olde England Street.

On December 31, 1993, Barbra Streisand christened the opening of the 16,325 seat Garden Arena with her first concert in more than 20 years.

In mid June of 1995, the monorail from MGM to Bally's was opened to the public. The coming out party for the monorail on behalf of Bally's consisted of showgirls and guys from Jubilee helping the groups to the monorail. Characters from the Wizard of Oz greeted the groups on the MGM side.

In 1995, EFX was shown at the resort starring Michael Crawford of Phantom of the Opera fame. The part was originally offered to Rick Springfield but Springfield declined.

In November of 1996, David Cassidy took Michael Crawford's place in EFX. The part was again offered to Rick Springfield but Springfield stated the timing wasn't right.

On February 15, 1998, the MGM opened its Studio 54 with a private performance by Elton John, drawing dozens of celebrities. This event raised more than $1 million for the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

The 22,000 square foot nightclub features state-of-the-art sound, video and lighting, as well as DJs playing dance music including hits from the disco era. The three story studio includes three dance floors and four bars, an exclusive private area for invited guests and several semi-private lounges. Each dance floor features its own lighting and sound system and decor that recalls the "behind the scenes" look of sound studios.

The resort also contains the Entertainment Dome with high energy bands that perform daily.

In April of 1998, the MGM opened its $100 million, 380,000 square foot state-of-the-art Conference Center showcasing its tri-level facility with indoor and outdoor meeting space. This area includes two giant ballrooms and nearly 50,000 square feet of pre-function space with views of the Grand Pool & Spa complex. The Center features up to 60 meeting rooms for 20 to 6,000 people, as well as two separate loading docks for easy and accessible move-in. The total meeting space, including the existing ballroom in the hotel and in the Conference Center is 275,000 net square feet.

As of August 2001, MGM Grand sits on approximately 114 acres and offered the following rooms: Deluxe Rooms - Grand Tower; Players Suites; Spa Suites; Vista Suites; Lobby Suites; Glamour; Patio Suites; Vista Parlor Suites; and Grand Class 29th Floor.

The MGM contains restaurants including Dragon Court; Emeril Lagasse's New Orleans Fish House; Gatsby's; The Hollywood Brown Derby; MGM Grand Buffet; Neyla, A Mediterranean Grill; Ricardo's Mexican Restaurant; Stage Deli; Studio Cafe; The Rainforest Cafe; Wolfgang Puck Cafe; Mark Miller's Coyota Cafe, Grill Room, Grand Wok and Sushi Bar, Farmer's Market, and Cabana Grill.

The MGM includes the 650 seat Hollywood and the 450 seat Center Stage Lounge.

The MGM was also the first resort on the Strip to have an outdoor seasonal amusement park called Grand Adventures. The park featured rides such as Skyscreamer; Lightning Bolt; Les Bumper Boats; Over the Edge; Grand Canyon Rapids; Parisian Taxis Bumper; and Pedalin' Paddleboats.

The Show Place Junction was an outdoor stage hosting high energy shows, and the Star Steppin' Stage featured soulful sounds.

Shops included MGM Grand & Co., Lion Habitat Retail Shop, Emerald City Gift Shop, Marshall Rousso Peruzzi, Bernini, Sunglass Shop, The Rainforest Cafe retail outlet, El Portal Luggage, Houdini Magic, Kenneth Jay Lane, Las Vegas Harley Davidson, Welcome to Las Vegas, Photo Magic and Roaring Spirits.

The casino included approximately 3,700 gaming machines, approximately 165 gaming tables, Poker room, Keno, and a 227 square foot a race and sports book with twelve 50" TVs, which features two separate rooms complimented by private tables with its own 13" TV, desk lamp, and laptop computer hookups.

In 1999, the MGM Grand completed its latest set of renovations totalling $575 million, including the replacement of the golden Leo entranceway with a 50-ton gold statue of Leo.

In February of 1999, the 5,000 square foot Forever Grand Wedding Chapel consisting of two elegantly decorated chapels was opened.

On May 15, 1999, The Mansion opened. The Mansion has a Tuscan-Mediterranean influence and themed after a 200 year old Italian villa, featuring 29 private villas ranging from 2,400 square feet to 12,000 square feet.

The Grand Pool is a 6.6 acre featuring five separate pools, three large whirlpools, lush tropical landscaping, bridges, fountains and waterfalls with a combined swimming space of more than 27,000 square feet including a gently flowing river pool, which is the city's longest ride of its kind at 1,000 feet long. The 147,000 square foot of sunbathing space can accommodate 2,500 sunbathers. The Grand Pool area also has private cabanas, cocktail service and a poolside restaurant the Cabana Grille.

The Spa Complex is 30,000 square feet area featuring saunas, steam rooms, whirlpools, relaxation lounges, more than 30 treatment rooms and two 1,100 square foot private VIP Spa Suites. The fitness center showcases state-of-the-art virtual reality climbers and bikes, treadmills, cross-trainers, free-weights and computerized circuit-training equipment.

On July 1, 1999 the $9 million, 5,345 square foot Lion Habitat opened with a variety of lions including Goldie Metro, and Baby Lion, a direct descendent of MGM Studios' famous signature marquee lion, Metro. Guests can be encircled in a 3,000 square foot queuing area surrounded by lions at any time via a see-through, walk-way tunnel that runs through the Habitat, allowing lions to prowl above and below. At any given time there may be up to five lions in the habitat.

On January 15, 1999, the $45 million EFX premiered with its new star Tommy Tune. Once again, the part was offered to Rick Springfield but Springfield said the timing wasn't right.

One of the unique forms of entertainment is for couples getting married. In addition to the standard, themed weddings on the 250 foot SkyScreamer, in Studio 54, and at EFX are also offered.

On March 6, 2000, it was announced that Mirage Resorts has been sold to Kirk Kerkorian/MGM Grand for $4.4 billion in cash. The assets range from Mirage's $1.60 billion Bellagio resort to the MGM Grand, the national's largest hotel. MGM also assumed $2 billion in Mirage debt.

The MGM Grand Hotel-Casino planned to open "Mansion Casino," a new 8,000-square-foot high-end gaming area, by Memorial Day weekend.

On April 26, 2000, MGM celebrated the grand opening of the company's new satellite registration/hotel check-in center at the McCarran International Airport. This is the first of its kind opened by a hotel company at any United States airport.

On January 30, 2001, EFX replaced Tommy Tune with Rick Springfield. Springfield signed a one year contract for the show.

In February, 2001, Grand Adventures closed down and was renamed The Park at MGM Grand, which will be available only for group business and specials events with 50 or more people.

On August 1, 2001, Springfield suffered a broken arm when he fell while performing in EFX. In one of the last scenes of the second show, Springfield was on a 20-foot high beam that lowered him to the stage when he fell 10 to 15 feet as the audience watched. Understudy Sal Salangsang filled in for Springfield for the rest of the week.

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