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Las Vegas ‘Star Wars’ attraction hopes to attract locals

Updated April 24, 2018 - 6:41 pm

The force was strong with Nichole Madden.

The Australian tourist had withstood hordes of stormtroopers, fire-shooting monsters and sarcastic robots.

“That was so good,” Madden said outside the Grand Canal Shoppes’ newest attraction. “I’ve done VR before, but nothing to that extent.”

Madden and other select shoppers in the Strip shopping center have gotten an early look at virtual reality attraction “Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire.”

Opening Friday, the attraction suits groups of up to four people, each with a 20-pound backpack and a headset that covers the top half of their faces.

For less than 30 minutes, customers walk around multiple settings inspired by the Star Wars science fiction franchise.

Customers can smell fire from lava, touch the robots that brief them on their objective, and shoot as well as get shot by stormtroopers.

Cliff Plumer, CEO of attraction developer The Void, said the Grand Canal Shoppes location has the ability to change the content of the attraction from Star Wars to another, yet-to-be-named theme.

The company’s existing locations have drawn over 1,000 visitors a day, he said.

The Void opened the attraction in Grand Canal Shoppes to appeal to convention travelers. It is exploring adding its brand of virtual reality attractions to airports and cruise lines.

“Everything is in Vegas,” Plumer said. “But this is something new.”

Janet LeFevre, spokeswoman for Grand Canal owner GGP, said the attraction reflects the type of destination entertainment she wants at the shopping center.

Customers used to visiting Grand Canal for a gondola ride or a luxury retail brand now have an attraction with cutting-edge technology, LeFevre said.

GGP will help The Void market the attraction to international visitors in China, Mexico, the United Kingdom and Brazil, she said.

Almost all shoppers at Grand Canal are tourists, but she expects the Star Wars attraction to bring locals to the property.

Plumer said The Void is looking at educational content to interest schools in the attraction.

“It’s a win-win all around,” LeFevre said.

The attraction is for people 10 and older. General admission tickets are $36.95, according to the website.

Virtual reality technology continues to grow in the valley. Springs Preserve and the New York-New York roller coaster have recently added virtual reality attractions.

For more attractions and so-called experiences to come to the Strip, landlords and tenants must find balance with what can be capital-intensive and rent-sensitive projects, said Frank Volk, executive vice president of retail brokerage RKF.

“Because of the shifting demographic to one that values experiences over absolute consumption, the trend will continue to grow,” Volk said. “Give the people what they want.”

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands operates The Venetian and Palazzo.

Contact Wade Tyler Millward at wmillward@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4602. Follow @wademillward on Twitter.

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