Pleasant Grove ‘virtual reality’ entertainment center on track to open this summer or fall

First, entrepreneur Ken Bretschneider came up with plans to develop The Void, a “virtual entertainment center” scheduled to open this summer or fall in Utah County.

On Tuesday, the high-tech businessman announced plans to expand his entertainment footprint with the construction of The Grid, a 100,000-square-foot “experience center, an electronic playground” featuring an indoor race track with vehicles capable of going 60 mph (provided drivers are qualified to handle that speed).

He’s also broken ground and has buildings rising in a 14-acre park called Evermore, a rendition of a European village of the 18th or early 19th century that “lends itself to the idea of fantasy and romance … theatrical immersive entertainment” for its visitors.

“This is really the future of entertainment,” predicted Bretschneider, the keynote speaker at the Elevating Commercial Real Estate 2018 conference organized by CBC Advisors.

The sponsoring real-estate firm had some big news of its own.

The Salt Lake City firm has become part of Colliers International Group, a commercial real-estate firm based in Toronto. Colliers President Dylan Taylor said his company has 15,400 employees in more than 500 offices in 69 countries. It generated $2.7 billion in revenue last year and manages more than 2 billion square feet of commercial space.

Of 30 acquisitions made by Colliers in the past 36 months, Taylor said, purchasing CBC for an undisclosed price was “without question, the smoothest culturally compatible deal we’ve made.” He predicted Colliers’ presence in the Utah market will “accelerate success” through its emphasis on “expertise, service, community and fun.”

A Canada native who moved to Utah County after marrying a woman from Orem, Bretschneider certainly believes that the future of fun — particularly for scores of millennials along the Wasatch Front — will involve participating in “immersive, interactive, multisensory experiences.”

Utah County needs what he’s building along Pleasant Grove Boulevard, Bretschneider said, because “I feel that Utah needs a lot more fun. … Everything shuts down too early. That has to change.”

Like The Void, where guests will wear goggles providing three-dimensional visuals of settings ranging from primeval forests to alien planets, The Grid will use everything from 3-D projection mapping to smells to make visitors feel as if they are in a car race, going up and down hills up to 17 feet high and banking through sharp turns.

People will be able to compete as individuals or a team, he added, once work is done on a system that allows communications between drivers’ helmets as they race through virtual worlds.

Bretschneider said thousands of trees and flowers will transform Evermore into four types of botanical gardens — English, Victorian, Celtic and fantasy — that will help people involve themselves in activities reminiscent of what might be seen in “Lord of the Rings” or “Harry Potter.”

Based on what he’s learned building Evermore, he encouraged the real-estate agents to use visual reality to get to know their sites better.

“We built [Evermore] in virtual reality so you could walk through the park and visualize it,” he said. As a result, “we made hundreds of changes. It probably saved us millions of dollars in changes we surely would have had to make in the end.”