61°F
weather icon Clear

What is Area15? The new entertainment complex opened Thursday.

What is Area15?

Marketing for the massive black structure just off Interstate 15 near Desert Inn Road has been pointedly mysterious, opting to designate what it is not, rather than what it is.

Its descriptors of “Not a museum,” “Not a car dealership” and “Not a Skyquarium” will be retired at 6 p.m. Thursday, when the experiential entertainment and retail complex finally opens and invites guests to see what it is for themselves.

Area15 is seen in Las Vegas on Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. (Elizabeth Page Brumley / Las Vegas Revi ...
Area15 is seen in Las Vegas on Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. (Elizabeth Page Brumley / Las Vegas Review-Journal)

At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has largely brought the Las Vegas arts community to a standstill, the September opening of Area15 represents a bright spot — one that is illuminated with black lights, 3D projections and ultraviolet paint.

“It’s changed some of what we’ve had to offer. Not good or bad. But because of regulations that we have to take seriously,” says Winston Fisher, CEO of Area15. “When people walk in here, it’s an escape. You can forget about some of this stuff going on and get back to some wonder and awe.”

Going inside

For those who reserved a free ticket to the opening, the experience will begin in the parking lot, where visitors will park near a defunct airplane, an expansive mural or the sculptures that compose the Art Island.

After entering the building, guests will find themselves face to face with a 12-foot-tall skull, whose appearance pulses with the music to constantly transform into mosaics of patterns and colors.

The entrance of Area15 is seen in Las Vegas on Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. (Elizabeth Page Brumley ...
The entrance of Area15 is seen in Las Vegas on Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. (Elizabeth Page Brumley / Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Beyond the skull is the Spine, the vaporwave purple and neon green corridor of the 200,000-square-foot building and home to several of Area15’s experimental, artistic and otherworldly offerings.

RELATED: Pandemic prompts Area15 to pivot to a popup restaurant

At Thursday night’s opening, guests will be invited to explore the Spine and peruse artworks such as a kinetic art car by Las Vegas artist Henry Chang, the glowing leaves of the tree in the center of the Oddwood bar and the volcano-shaped Sanctuary, which is upheld by bamboo and offers plush seating surrounded by fountains and plants.

Area15's lounge and private event space, Sanctuary, is seen days before the opening, in Las Veg ...
Area15's lounge and private event space, Sanctuary, is seen days before the opening, in Las Vegas on Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. (Elizabeth Page Brumley / Las Vegas Review-Journal)

In the Portal event space, guests will find a room that transforms from four bare walls to a mystical jungle and again to a 20-minute projection show. Outside, the A-Lot event space offers dining beneath an impossibly large disco ball.

Chef Todd English is photographed inside of Area15 days before the opening, in Las Vegas on Mon ...
Chef Todd English is photographed inside of Area15 days before the opening, in Las Vegas on Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. (Elizabeth Page Brumley / Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Boston-based Emack & Bolios serves ice cream and Wild Muse Boutique sells wellness products, branded merchandise and festival wear.

A Wild Muse, a festival clothing and essentials vendor, is seen at Area15 days before the openi ...
A Wild Muse, a festival clothing and essentials vendor, is seen at Area15 days before the opening, in Las Vegas on Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. (Elizabeth Page Brumley / Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Guests looking for a bird’s-eye view of Area15 can hop on the Haley’s Comet glider-ride around the complex’s ceiling.

And those looking for a more literal bird’s-eye view can take a spin above New York or Singapore with the Birdly VR experience.

Individuals preview Haley's Comet zip line at Area15 in Las Vegas on Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. (R ...
Individuals preview Haley's Comet zip line at Area15 in Las Vegas on Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae

Pivoting

Area15 was slated to open in December, but a still-growing list of ideas and additions pushed the date back.

The emergence of the pandemic meant Fisher and Michael Beneville, chief creative officer, have had to rethink the execution of some of the space’s offerings and postpone the grand opening party, which had been hyped to be one of the biggest blowouts of the year.

“We always said we’re a platform,” says Fisher. “The outdoor event space is meant for big dinners and concerts. But we can turn it into a safe place to do social distancing and enjoy dinner and maybe do viewing parties. The Portal again is meant for big dinners and concerts. But now we have this incredible technology to create a safe, artistic, immersive experience.”

Art piece "In Every Lifetime I Will Find You" by Michael Benisty at Area15's Art Island outdoor ...
Art piece "In Every Lifetime I Will Find You" by Michael Benisty at Area15's Art Island outdoor gallery is seen days before the doors open, in Las Vegas on Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. (Elizabeth Page Brumley / Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Fisher says that, under Gov. Steve Sisolak’s current statewide mandates, some experiences, like the Oddwood bar and the Sanctuary, need to open as restaurants in order to operate.

“This is meant to be a place where you have people standing and sitting at the bar,” says Fisher, sitting at an illuminated hightop table beneath the flickering rainbow leaves of the Oddwood tree. “That will be the experience, ultimately. But you can sit at a table and eat dinner and have a drink and it’s still a nice place to be.”

Area15 days before the opening, is seen in Las Vegas on Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. (Elizabeth Page ...
Area15 days before the opening, is seen in Las Vegas on Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. (Elizabeth Page Brumley / Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Opening safely

While Area15 will eventually have a capacity of around 7,000 when all the tenants have opened, capacity is currently capped at 750 per day to make room for social distancing.

“And we’re really interested to see who those 10 percent of people are going to be,” says Beneville. “They’re the ones who are most curious. They’re the ones who want to come and discover with us and they’re the ones who are going to inspire the next beats of how we develop the space. What do people come to? What do they want to take pictures of? What do they see? What do they experience?”

Contact Janna Karel at jkarel@reviewjournal.com. Follow @jannainprogress on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST