What it takes to keep Bellagio Fountains going on Las Vegas Strip

Mark Fuller may have been the only person near center Strip the night of Oct. 15, 1998, who wasn’t trying to catch a glimpse of the Fountains of Bellagio. In fact, he was facing the other way.

“I did that night what I still do today,” said the man who’d spent the previous three years willing the fountains into existence. “I’ve seen those pieces of course, all of them, so many times, and I love them. But I turned and I watched the expressions on the people’s faces. And you see them hug the person that they’re with. You see, I guess, the most precious water of all is not the gallons being tossed in the air but the tear that you often see in people’s eye.”

Fuller is nearly as gifted in talking about fountains as he is in designing them.

In his quest to bring a water attraction to the desert on a scale that had never been seen, one with 1,214 sprayers and shooters, the chief excellence officer of WET and his team relied on outside help from a professor of fluid mechanics at the California Institute of Technology, moonlighting computer programmers from the Department of Energy and choreographer Kenny Ortega, who taught Patrick Swayze his moves in “Dirty Dancing.”

“At every step of the way,” Fuller said, “we were innovating and crossing new boundaries.”

Like any global superstar, the Fountains of Bellagio has an impressive entourage: It takes a group of 30 engineers, mechanics and pool specialists — all dive certified — to keep the attraction firing on all cylinders.

“We’re passionate about this lake,” said lead engineer Loni Singer, who’s worked at Bellagio since day one. “This is the branding of MGM (Resorts International), and this is what everybody sees on every commercial.”

Working out of the Batcave, the name for the headquarters and machine shop located in one of the archways surrounding the lake, Singer and his team receive a daily report detailing which components need attention before three to five divers hit the water to inspect problems. An “underwater Zamboni,” developed in-house, skims the lake bottom, sucking up dirt, debris and coins. Singer said the hotel donates “about two tons a year” of currency to charities.

“They said that unit wouldn’t last five years,” he said, pointing to one of the oarsmen, devices that produce movable streams. “We’re going on our 20th year right now, and they’re still running.”

Considering the amount of time those moving parts spend underwater, they’ve failed remarkably few times. Over the course of more than 240,000 shows, there have been cancellations for high winds and bad weather. “Technical failures after 20 years,” Singer said, “we’ve had maybe 10 total.”

Of the challenges Bellagio founder Steve Wynn presented Fuller, one stands out: “He said, ‘I want the people when they experience this fountain to be removed emotionally from Las Vegas. I want them to be swept away. That’s why it’s important that this embrace music in ways that fountains have never done before.’ ”

WET still engineers and choreographs each new fountain show at Bellagio. (“I can’t tell you what it is,” Fuller said, “but we’re going to be creating a very exciting new piece in December.”)

The staggering success of the Fountains of Bellagio became the company’s calling card. Of its more than 200 projects, those at Wynn Las Vegas Esplanade, “Le Reve,” the Mirage volcano and multiple features at CityCenter would bring Fuller back to Las Vegas. Bellagio, though, still holds a special place in his heart.

“I could turn to my left one night, and I could see Rupert Murdoch standing there watching that fountain. And I could turn to my right, and I could see a homeless person. And they’re both enjoying that experience, and they both paid the same price,” Fuller said. “I don’t know where on this planet there is that level of fantastic entertainment that is that accessible to everyone.”

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

Political refugees and immigrants learn about Thanksgiving in Las Vegas
Political refugees and immigrants learn about Thanksgiving traditions at Catholic Charities. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Lights FC coach Eric Wynalda lost his home in California wildfire
Eric Wynalda, coach of the Las Vegas Lights FC soccer team, talks about losing his home in the deadly California wildfires during an interview in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Nov. 17, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Women face issues from Essure birth control implants
DeVonna "Kat" Normand said she had complications from the Essure birth control implants. Normand uses her Sin City Heat show at 22.3 TakeOver Vegas Radio internet radio station in Las Vegas as a platform to raise awareness about Essure and connect with other women who have used the device. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Truancy and Clark County schools
Tony Stark, one of 23 attendance officers with the Clark County School District, have a tall order tracking down students who aren't in school.
North Las Vegas Water Meters
Randy DeVaul shows off the new water meters that the city is installing.
Project 150 Thanksgiving 2018
About 100 volunteers for Project 150 box Thanksgiving meals for high school students and their families in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Nov. 14.
Three Square’s Maurice Johnson Talks About Food Waste
Three Square’s director of operations Maurice Johnson talks about food waste.
Parade preparation nears completion
Downtown Summerlin prepares for its annual holiday parade.
Clark County Wetlands promotes 2019 Wetland Walker Program
This year the park will be celebrating the Northern Flicker. The program is designed to teach about that bird, and encourage people to visit the Wetlands and walk the same distance the bird migrates each year.
Poet’s Walk Henderson introduces storytelling
Residents enjoy a storytelling activity.
Downtown Summerlin hosts its annual Festival of Arts
People crowd to Downtown Summerlin for the 23rd annual Summerlin Festival of Arts in Las Vegas, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County educators debate alternative grading systems
Spring Valley High School principal Tam Larnerd, Spring Valley High School IB coordinator Tony Gebbia and retired high school teacher Joyce O'Day discuss alternative grading systems. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Grandparents on the fire that killed three family members
Charles and Doris Smith talk about the night an apartment fire took the lives of three of their family members. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
New York artist Bobby Jacobs donated a sculpture to the Las Vegas Healing Garden
Bobby Jacobs, an artist from upstate New York, has spent much of the past year creating a sculpture of two separate angel wings. He donated the sculpture to the Las Vegas Healing Garden. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Weather will cool slightly through the end of the week
The weather will cool slightly through the end of the week., but highs are still expected to be slightly above normal for this year. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Mayor announces new public-private partnership
Mayor Carolyn Goodman announced the creation of the Mayor’s Fund for Las Vegas LIFE, a public-private partnership that will allocate money to the city’s neediest.
Fremont9 opens downtown
Fremont9 apartment complex has opened in downtown Las Vegas. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Fall fairytale gets cozy at Bellagio Conservatory
Bellagio Conservatory introduces its fall-themed garden titled "Falling Asleep." (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
What the house that Ted Binion died in looks like today
Casino heir Ted Binion died in this Las Vegas home in 1998. Current home owner Jane Popple spent over $600,000 to restore and modernize the home. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Rescue Mission employees terminated
Don James, a former employee for the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, talks about the day his team was terminated. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Raiders Cupcakes at Freed's Bakery
Freed's Bakery will have Raiders-themed cupcakes available in store and for order during football season. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
51s fans say goodbye to Cashman Field
Las Vegas 51s fans said goodbye to Cashman Field in Las Vegas, Monday September, 3, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
51s owner Don Logan's last weekend at Cashman Field
Don Logan, owner of the Las Vegas 51s, gives a tour of Cashman Field before the team's final weekend using the field. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like