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Doomed Las Vegas Strip Icon May Have a New Path to Survival

A new owner for the Mirage likely means the end of its signature attraction. But fans have new hope.

When MGM Resorts International (MGM) - Get MGM Resorts International Report sold the Mirage to Hard Rock International for $1 billion, it was clear that huge changes would be coming to the iconic Las Vegas Strip resort. The new owner said that it planned to build its signature guitar hotel on the property.

To do that, the company had to find the space for a new hotel. At first, some thought the new owner would knock down the Mirage hotel/casino building, but that's not what's going to happen. 

Instead of building a new hotel where the current Mirage sits, Hard Rock has decided to build its Guitar Hotel where the Mirage Volcano currently sits.

That means that one of Las Vegas's most-visible free attractions has limited time left. Some fans of the Volcano have made efforts to save it, creating a Change,org petition to have it declared a historical landmark. The petition, which has more than 6,000 signatures, makes the following case:

"The Mirage was the first 'megaresort' ever to appear in Las Vegas, and on its opening day in November 1989 it was the most expensive resort ever built. From day one the The Volcano has been delighting The Mirage's visitors to what is an increasingly rare and totally awesome free Vegas attraction and highly emotional experience. Moreover, it's located on the most visible piece of land on the Las Vegas Strip! Frankly, it should be a historical landmark."

That effort has almost no chance of succeeding (6,000 signatures are hardly a mandate). But Alan M. Feldman, a former MGM executive who is now a distinguished fellow for responsible gaming at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, says the volcano may have a future (albeit a very different one).

“I feel a great kinship to everyone who signed the petition,” Feldman recently told Casino.org. “The volcano has great meaning in their lives, just as it did in my own. Unfortunately, it would look silly in front of a different hotel, out of place in a new age of design and architecture."

That does not mean Feldman does not see a path forward for the iconic attraction.

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The exterior of The Mirage Hotel & Casino at night. DK

What's Next for the Mirage Volcano?

MGM retained ownership of the Mirage name (licensing it to Hard Rock during the transition). Feldman says the company could build a new Mirage with an improved volcano as its signature feature.

“There, a new and upgraded volcano can properly serve the purpose of spectacularly welcoming guests and setting the tone for their memorable experiences,” Feldman said.

That's an interesting idea. MGM has not commented on the future of the Mirage brand. It could rebrand one of its Strip hotels as a Mirage and build a new volcano, but it has not even hinted at that possibility.

MGM has been focusing on the Mirage sale and adding the Cosmopolitan to its Strip portfolio.

"Turning to our Las Vegas growth strategy, we made solid progress toward our acquisition of operations of the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and are on track to close this quarter," Chief Executive Bill Hornbuckle said during the company's first-quarter earnings call

"The Cosmopolitan is an iconic brand with a loyal and complementary customer base that will further enhance our Las Vegas Strip portfolio."

MGM has not hinted at bringing back the Mirage name, but it did telegraph that it might, given that it did not sell the name. That enables the prospect that Mirage and its signature volcano could make a grand return at some date in the future,.