Twenty Years Later… Hydraulics is Still the Star of Cirque du Soleil

Step outside the airport in Las Vegas and the sensory overload begins. Hard-charging lights and sounds create an incomparable experience for the entire time one is within that unique city.

So, if you are in the business of creating memorable entertainment in such a competitive atmosphere, how do you do it? In fact, how do you do it and keep it going for twenty years?

Well, for Cirque du Soleil and the MGM Grand Hotel, the show DOES go on… twenty years later.

In conjunction with McLaren Engineering, the stage for the Cirque show “KA” is still being lifted in the air by Atlantic Hydraulic Systems.

Now, the term stage may be an understatement. This is actually the world’s largest stage, weighing in at 200 tons and lifting 70 feet in the air at two feet per second as it tilts 100 degrees. It’s a marvel that truly challenges people’s perception… accomplished through a 4,000-horsepower hydraulic power unit and control system designed, engineered, and manufactured by Atlantic Hydraulic Systems.

Little did the audience know on opening night in February 2005 how long the stage took to become a reality… with a phone call three years prior. All they saw was a show that seemed to defy gravity… a fact that did not escape the New York Times as they entitled their review “Fire, Acrobatics and Most of All, Hydraulics.” And 20 years later, the show is still making people gasp with delight and terror at the same time.

So obviously, something so complex with functionality that was almost unthinkable had its share of challenges. The answer is a resounding “Yes”. Tuning a hydraulic system that sits on (4) 12” bore cylinders x 70-foot stroke had its “moments.” The stage, when in the elevated position, sits on about 1600 gallons of oil, rendering the hydraulic natural frequency of the system incredibly low (basically, it’s a big spring). However, system failure was not an option with a peak system flow of 2200 GPM at 4000 PSI. So, all hydraulic pumps, valves, and controls have redundant and/or soft-landing functionality in case of a component malfunction.

The Atlantic team spent months at the MGM Grand modifying the hydraulic system, fine-tuning the hydraulic motion control, and testing and retesting. The result was a reliable hydraulic system that has proven its reliability and resiliency 20 years later.

KA was just one of many entertainment projectsthat depend on Atlantic firepower utilizing its hydraulic power units & hydraulic controls. These include Broadway shows such as The Lion King, Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables and many more.