The creators of AREA15, an immersive art experience and events center with eye-catching special effects, are going all out in Orlando.
In an interview with GrowthSpotter, the creators of AREA15 in Las Vegas said they plan to open a second and larger entertainment center in Orlando’s tourism corridor by 2024. The planned 300,000-square-foot venue will out-size the one they debuted in Las Vegas in 2020 by about 100,000 square feet.
“We’re going to get to do things here that we had to leave on the cutting room floor,” Michael Beneville, chief creative officer for AREA15, said.
In ways, the facility will mimic the one in Las Vegas. A conceptual rendering for the venue in Orlando shows similar components, like its 80-foot wide grand entrance with lighted art sculptures, a tall open-air balloon ride with a built-in bar and an outdoor concert venue to the west of the building.
Similar to the one in Las Vegas, too, the inside will feature a highly-curated smorgasbord of fluorescent colors and lights, giant interactive art installations, and unique dining, entertainment and retail experiences — all of which take place within a large, dark, windowless warehouse.
But the exact tenants and specific art installations one may find in the Orlando project, which is estimated to cost between $150 million to $200 million, have not yet been singled out, according to Winston Fisher, CEO of AREA15.
“That’s a wide-open slate for us,” Fisher said while explaining that the core offerings at AREA15 will be the same, but the flair will cater to an audience that visits Orlando and is local to Orlando, not Las Vegas.
“There’s this incredible culture and artistic, culinary, and performance talent in this city and we want to celebrate that.” His goal, he said, is to introduce something new to the entertainment market in Orlando, while at the same time offering a venue that could act jointly with the theme parks and the convention center.
“We’re bringing something that’s complementary, but totally different,” he said. “When any convention comes to town, we’re going to be part of that product offering.”
The Las Vegas experience features about a dozen tenants, including its anchor Omega Mart, which was created by the renowned Santa Fe artist collective Meow Wolf, and takes up about 50,000 square feet. Wink World, created by one of the founders of the Blue Man Group, is another notable exhibit at AREA15 Las Vegas.
Admissions for Wink World adult tickets start at $18, while adult tickets for Omega Mart start at $45.
Features at AREA15 Las Vegas include a canopy of 5,000 LED lights, a food hall by chef and restaurateur Todd English, a 23-foot Japanese maple tree, and a rentable 8,000-square-foot ballroom with technology to project all-encompassing visuals off the surrounding walls.
Other installments at AREA15′s Las Vegas location include Lost Spirits Distillery, Rocket Fizz candy shop, Wild Muse Boutique, a festival-inspired clothing store, Dueling Axes, Emporium Bar and Arcade and a special edition of Kappa Toys that specializes in glow-in-the-dark toys.
During its first full year of operation, Winston said AREA15 in the Las Vegas Strip welcomed two million visitors. He expects more this year with restrictions on international travel related to the pandemic being lifted, and the Vegas convention center returning to more regularly scheduled programming.
“I’m really confident we could get three million [annual visitors] in Orlando,” he said. AREA15 in Las Vegas created more than 1,000 jobs and hosted 44 live events during its first year of operation. The Orlando venue will feature more than 150,000 square feet of leasable retail space.
It’s unclear if the artistic collective Meow Wolf will be anchoring the Orlando project as well, but Meow Wolf’s co-founder and director, Vince Kadlubek is a big Disney fan, according to a New York Times article about the collective. Fisher is also a member of Meow Wolf’s board, along with venture capitalist Stewart Alsop, an early investor in Twitch and PokémonGo.
Beneville said creating the immersive concept took a bit of “invention and reinvention” of what the future of the tourism industry will look like. “We are a purpose-built event and amusement center that leverages the 21st century, we’re not trying to fix [malls of the past], we built something completely new.”
Earlier this year, GrowthSpotter broke the story that the company’s Area 15 Orlando LLC had bought about 17 acres on the northwest corner of Lake Street and Regency Village Drive.
The LLC, which is tied to AREA15′s parent company Fisher Brothers, paid $25 million for the development site near the Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets. Directly across I-4, is Unicorp National Developments’ 76-acre O-Town West mixed-use district.
The multi-phased project in Orlando’s Dr. Phillips area is approved for over 1,500 residential units with retail, dining and office space divided among four sub-districts: Village at O-Town West, The Crossings at O-Town West, the Town Center at O-Town West and the Boardwalk at O-Town West.
Currently under construction within O-Town West is a 396-unit apartment community called The Bentley; and Marriott Vacations Worldwide Corporation’s new global corporate headquarters. The first phase of The Glass House, a trio of 8-story residential towers in the Village subdistrict; and the Publix-anchored commercial plaza in the Town Center are also being built out.
Fisher said Orlando made sense for its second location, in part because of the land space and the fact that it welcomes millions of visitors each year.
According to Visit Orlando, roughly 76 million visitors came to Orlando in 2019. Though that number dropped significantly during the pandemic, Fisher believes tourism will jump back up again.
“It’s with a level of humility that we enter these legendary tourist and attraction markets,” he said. “What we really want to do in Vegas, and here too, is add something to this incredible place that doesn’t really exist and that’s this ‘wanderland [sic] of music, experience and art.”