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July 30, 2014

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New ‘CSI’ exhibit at MGM Grand turns visitors into sleuths

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Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun

Crime scene called “A House Collided” displays evidence participants must record to solve the crime in “CSI: The Experience” at the MGM Grand.

CSI: MGM Grand

MGM Grand is unveiling their interactive exhibit, CSI: The Experience inside the studio walk. Attendees observe a crime scene, write down clues, and use the information they gather in various stations to work their way towards figuring out how the killer did it.

CSI: The Experience

The autopsy area in Launch slideshow »

Dead bodies, dark alleys and blood-spattered rooms aren’t exactly things that come to mind when you dream up the ideal vacation. A science lesson probably isn’t on the list either.

But for visitors looking for a little danger and mystery during their stay, MGM Grand is about to offer it up.

The hotel will unveil “CSI: The Experience” on Sunday, giving visitors the chance to be part of the “CSI” phenomenon while they survey their own crime scene, analyze the evidence and crack the case.

After traveling as a touring exhibit for the past two years, the exhibit is finally laying its roots as the first permanent “CSI: The Experience” in the city where “CSI” began.

To land the exhibit in Las Vegas was a no-brainer, said Christoph Rahofer, president and CEO of EMS Exhibits.

“Our show is based on Las Vegas and it’s totally obvious that it has to be in Las Vegas,” Rahofer said. “The idea is to have it as permanent landmark.”

The TV show was created by Las Vegas native and UNLV graduate Anthony Zuiker, who wrote and pitched his script while working as a tram operator for MGM Mirage resorts. Nine years after its launch, the “CSI” franchise has gained three separate shows, a cult following and a Strip littered with merchandise.

It took MGM Grand almost no time at all to realize the exhibit was a fit for its property.

“The name ‘CSI’ is so strong that it was like, immediately, we knew we wanted to do it,” MGM Grand Vice President of Operations John Shigley said.

From its inception to this weekend’s opening day, it took MGM Grand and EMS Exhibits only six months to put together the $5 million, 12,000-square-foot exhibit.

The result: An experience where visitors can be part of the popular show and the chance for exhibit producers to sneak in a little lesson about forensic science.

The experience starts at one of three crime scenes:

• A car has crashed through the living room window of a suburban home, and a man is slumped over in the front seat.

• A young woman in a waitress uniform is sprawled in an alley behind a seedy motel with tire marks across her abdomen.

• Human remains are uncovered in the sand in a red desert canyon. The only evidence is an apparent gunshot wound to the head, a wedding ring and shreds of clothing.

After exiting the crime scene, the rookie sleuths will head to the crime lab with their list of evidence and begin to piece together the mystery.

While the evidence will differ from scene to scene, visitors will learn to compare fingerprints and impression evidence, employ toxicology and anthropology, match up strands of DNA and dabble in a little bit of forensic entomology.

Then it’s off to the morgue where the coroner will give you his analysis from the autopsy.

Next lies the moment of truth: The CSI newbies will take their evidence to a recreation of the office of Gil Grissom—the original CSI supervisor. After answering a series of questions based on the visitor’s scientific findings, they will hear from Grissom whether they’ve cracked the case.

Rather than a “look-and-see” exhibit, this one lets visitors control the action. The interactive nature of the program and the technology are what sets “CSI: The Experience” apart from other museum exhibits, Rahofer said.

Rahofer said he hopes the hometown factor with play into the success of the permanent exhibit. The exhibit already has seen big numbers in cities such as Vienna, Chicago, and Belfast. The fact that millions tune in to the ‘CSI’ shows each week probably doesn’t hurt its cause.

But what’s with all the hype anyway? Rahofer thinks it’s a few things.

“I think it’s the curiosity. It’s putting a puzzle together. People want to get behind the stories. They want to figure out what has happened. They want to know more about the secrets and “CSI” has a lot of those elements,” Rahofer said. “On top of that, you have all these great characters.”

The stars of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and Zuiker will usher in the new exhibit tonight with a red carpet event.

“CSI: The Experience” will be open to its first visitors starting at 10 a.m. Sunday. The exhibit will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. with tickets priced at $30.

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