October 11, 2010
Poolandspa.com Newsletter October 2010
Las Vegas, NV USA
By Scott Mayerowitz & Clayton Sandell, ABC News
A solar glare specialist who was denied a contract by a
Las Vegas hotel to help it solve an intense sunlight
issue -- now dubbed a "death ray" by employees there --
says the casino ignored his advice and went with a
"It is one thing to ask experts in their relative field
for advice; it is another to ignore their advice without
justification," glass film manufacturer Nichols E.
Ashton wrote the builders of the Vdara hotel back in
Today, guests lounging at the Las Vegas pool reportedly
are getting burned by concentrated sun rays strong
enough to melt plastic drink cups and plastic newspaper
Ashton is president of SSAF International, which
ultimately did not get a contract for a protective
window film to fix the problem.
"They didn't like the information. They didn't want to
spend the money," Ashton told ABC News Wednesday night.
"They thought the issue would go away. They thought
nobody would get hurt."
Gordon Absher, a spokesman for the hotel's owner, MGM
Mirage, said the company placed a reflective film over
the windows that blocks about 70 percent of the light.
The specifications for the window film used to mitigate
our convergence, those specifications were written by a
solar convergence expert that was hired to evaluate the
situation and recommend mitigation," Absher said. "Once
bids were received, the film we installed met and exceed
those specifications. The film manufactured by others,
including SSAF, did not.
"It is at best a mild inconvenience," he said. "If
someone notices that the temperature has increased and
they mention something to our staff, we offer to move
them. We offer them an umbrella. We offer them an
explanation of the unique convergence we deal with
"No one has had to seek medical attention," he added.
"We've had no one file a complaint or injury claim."
He said that Vdara is not the only building in America
to have the problem. "This is hardly a unique
situation," he said.
Ashton blamed the problem on poor design, saying the
building was placed in the wrong position. He said there
are no "sour grapes" over being denied the contract.
Absher said the company is well aware of the lingering
problem. This was the first summer of operation and he
said Vdara is investigating steps to solve the solar
But for now, guests are going to have to be careful as
the ray moves across the pool area. Bill Pintas
felt burning in his hair during his experience with the
hot spot. After a recent swim in the pool just
after noon, he went back to his lounge chair.
"I'm sitting there in the chair and all of the sudden my
hair and the top of my head are burning," Pintas told
ABC News. "I'm rubbing my head and it felt like a
chemical burn. I couldn't imagine what it could be."
Pintas said he shifted around, and suddenly the back of
his legs were burning. He ran to a nearby umbrella but
even that didn't provide cover, let alone a shadow.
"It was as bright as outside," said Pintas, a Chicago
lawyer who owns a condo at the Vdara.
"I used to live in Miami and I've sat in the sun in Las
Vegas 100 times. I know what a hot sun feels like and
this was not it," he said. "My first inclination was
thinking: Jesus we've destroyed the ozone layer because
I am burning." Bill Pintas' melted plastic
newspaper bag. Pintas learned he wasn't the first person
to experience the magnified sunlight. At the bar, he
explained the intense heat to some employees.
"They're kind of giggling and say: 'Yeah, we know. We
call it the death ray,'" Pintas said. They told
him it even melts plastic cups. A plastic Vdara bag
holding Pintas' newspaper also was burned through by the
sun. The black letters bearing the name Vdara had
entirely melted away.
Pintas isn't the only one to experience the so-called
death ray at the City Center hotel. A reporter
from the Las Vegas Review-Journal made two trips to the
pool and saw the 10-foot-by-15-foot hot zone. As
the Earth rotates, the hot spot shifts across the pool
area. During the summer, it was noticeable for about 90
minutes before and after noon, the reporter discovered
from pool employee interviews. The ray can increase
temperatures 20 degrees in the zone.
Pintas said that polyethylene newspaper bags melt at
between 120 and 130 degrees. A plastic cup melts at
around 160 degrees. "Because of the curved, concave
shape of that hotel, they sometimes get isolated pockets
of high temperatures," said Absher, the MGM Mirage
Apparently, there is a more scientific name for the
"death ray," a name that the hotel's management prefers:
"solar convergence phenomenon." The idea of a
blinding light being magnified by a glass hotel in the
middle of the desert shouldn't surprise anyone. That's
why MGM Mirage hired consultants to evaluate the problem
and find a solution. In the end, they chose a competing
film that Ashton said was cheaper and inferior. With
that film, the hotel acknowledged, "when folks are out
on the pool deck, on some days people will feel this
reflection and the heat associated with it."
Fixing the problem isn't going to be easy. As the Earth
spins, the sun moves across the horizon. But as the
seasons change, the angle of the Earth to the sun
changes too, meaning shadows -- and in this case the hot
spot -- move in a different way. Putting in one row of
thick umbrellas won't solve the problem because each day
they would have to be a few feet back or a few feet
forward from their prior day's position. "This is quite
literally an astronomical challenge," Absher said. "We
are dealing with a moving target."
Right now, the hotel is looking at getting some larger,
thicker umbrellas, maybe some large plants and a few
other, more high-tech options, Absher said. Since the
summer heat is on its way out, the hotel has a few
months to find a solution. Until then, add some extra
sunscreen and beware of the strong light.