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Raiding Area15: Learn what’s happening inside that giant black box (as far as we know)

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Shogyo Mujo by BARTKRESA Studios and sculptor Josh Harker
Photo: Peter Ruprecht / Courtesy of Vox Agency

Here’s what you probably know about Area15: It’s a giant, charcoal-colored building located just south of Palace Station in the I-15 corridor. Perhaps you’ve heard that it’ll be the Las Vegas home of Meow Wolf, the wild, Santa Fe-based collective whose immersive art installations have been showing up randomly in your Instagram feed these past few years: Think of your friends disappearing into portals inside washing machines and refrigerators. (Meow Wolf also gets unfairly blamed for George R.R. Martin’s failure to deliver new Song of Ice and Fire books—he’s a major benefactor for the collective—but c’mon. That’s not on Meow Wolf; writing fantasy novels is hard.)

That said, Area15—a coproduction of real estate development firm Fisher Brothers and creative agency Beneville Studios, both based in New York City—is some 200,000 square feet in total, and Meow Wolf occupies only a third of it. The rest of this “experiential retail and entertainment complex” could be described as a mall … in the same way you’d describe Game of Thrones as “a show about chairs.” When you Naruto-run into Area15 sometime early next year, the Area15 folks say, you’ll find something more closely akin to a futuristic, arty neighborhood—like Burning Man with a roof, only different.

The main area of Area15 is called “the Spine.” Entry to the Spine is free, as are the nearly 900 parking spaces outside. To the left as you enter is Meow Wolf—whose space, still under construction at this point, looks to be complex and labyrinthine—and to the right are two stories of curated retail and entertainment, whose tenant list is still under wraps. (Fisher Brothers’ Winston Fisher has reportedly been telling potential retail tenants that if they want to open a location at Area15, they have to provide something consumers can’t get anywhere else. If you sell coats, for example, you need a miniature arctic environment where people can try them on.)

Confirmed entertainment tenants include Nomadic, a producer of tactile VR rooms, and Emporium, a 10,000-square-foot video arcade bar that promises live music and DJs, local art murals and craft beers. Local operator Ryan Doherty, who runs Downtown’s Commonwealth and Park on Fremont, will be co-creating a new bar concept called Oddwood, built around a giant LED tree created by San Francisco’s Symmetry Labs. And Oddwood will sit next to a bamboo volcano, designed by Elora Hardy, that’s also a 200-capacity events space.

Alas, I’m out of room—and I haven’t even mentioned the rave-sized backyard area, or the art installations by Ivan McLean, Henry Chang Design, BARTKRESA Studios and others. What I can tell you is that they’re holding a live viewing party of that “Storm Area 51” event on September 20. If you register for the event online (at area15.com/contact; type “Storm Area 51 Viewing Party” in the comments section), you might just catch a glimpse of something. Could be aliens; could be a copy of The Winds of Winter. You tell us.

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