If you’ve gone to Las Vegas in the past decade or two, you’ve undoubtedly seen the famous, iconic fountains in front of the resort, luxury hotel and casino called the Bellagio. Running every 15 to 30 minutes depending on season and time and day of the week, the fountains have enthralled visitors since the hotel’s opening in (are you ready to feel really old?) 1998. The fountains have been there for almost 20 years – have you ever wondered how they work?
If you’ve never seen the fountains, here’s a quick description (thank-you, Wikipedia, which was able to describe the fountains way better than I ever could!):
The Fountains of Bellagio is a vast, choreographed water feature with performances set to light and music. The performances take place in front of the Bellagio hotel and are visible from numerous vantage points on the Strip, both from the street and neighboring structures. The show takes place every 30 minutes in the afternoons and early evenings, and every 15 minutes from 8 pm to midnight. Two minutes before a water show starts, the nozzles begin to break the water surface and the lights illuminating the hotel tower turn to a purple hue (usually), or red-white-and-blue for certain music. Shows may be cancelled without warning because of high wind, although shows usually run with less power in face of wind. A single show may be skipped to avoid interference with a planned event. Additional shows can occur for special occasions including weddings. The fountain display is choreographed to various pieces of music, including “Time To Say Goodbye” by Andrea Bocelli, “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood, “Your Song” by Elton John, “Viva Las Vegas” by Elvis Presley, “Luck Be a Lady” by Frank Sinatra, and “My Heart Will Go On” by Céline Dion.
Here’s an example of the production:
HOW THEY WORK
The fountains were built by WET Design, which is a water feature design firm based in Los Angeles. It was founded Mark Fuller, Melanie Simon, and Alan Robinson, all former Walt Disney Imagineers. Since its formation in 1983, the company has designed over two hundred fountains and water features using water, fire, ice, fog, and lights, including the The Dubai Fountain (which surpassed the Bellagio fountain as the world’s largest performing fountain when it was built in 2009. The Dubai Fountain has since been surpassed by the Okada Manila fountain, in the Philippines, in 2017).
The Bellagio fountains are set in a 8-acre manmade lake that’s serviced by a freshwater well that was drilled decades prior to irrigate a golf course that was previously on the site when it was the home of the Dunes Hotel & Casino. The fountains incorporate a network of pipes with more than 1,200 nozzles that make it possible to stage fountain and fog displays coordinated with more than 4,500 lights. It’s estimated the fountains cost somewhere between $40-$75 million to build.
The system consists of four kinds of devices that shoot water:
- The 208 oarsmen make the water “dance” up to 77 feet high and each one is individually programmable so the direction of the water can be changed anytime.
- There are 798 minishooters that shoot water 100 feet high
- 192 supershooters shoot water 240 feet into the air
- Finally, 16 extreme-shooters (installed in 2003), are capable of projecting a wall of water as high as 460 feet
The “fog” is made with softened water that’s fed at a high pressure through pipes that lead out to the lake.
To keep the Bellagio fountains up and running smoothly, they have roughly 30 engineers working every day. The engineers come from varying backgrounds, but all of them have dive training. Click here and here for some information of the behind-the-scenes work they need to do and click here for a 12-minute video from ABC News about their work.
The Bellagio’s fountains are a feat of technological mastery that entrances almost everyone who seems them. Knowing all the work that went into designing and building them, and that still goes to maintain them only can increase that level respect and wonder. I don’t know about you, but it’s one of my most favorite things in Las Vegas.
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