LINDON — It's not easy to build a Disneyland.
Those involved in trying to create an amusement fantasyland in Utah County say their plans for an adventure park have changed. But they are going forward with "The Void" — to be more specific, "The Vision of Infinite Dimensions" — a core attraction of the originally proposed Evermore Adventure Park.
"We want to deliver on our promises of Evermore," said Curtis Hickman, chief creative officer of the company co-founded by Ken Bretschneider and James Jensen. "Right now, this is the fastest and the best way to get things going."
Evermore was introduced in early 2014 as a multimillion-dollar amusement park that would feature a pirate ship, a haunted forest, a hotel, a man-made lake and seasonal concerts and events. But Hickman said it's been difficult to pull everything together financially and physically as quickly as hoped.
"The short answer is Evermore's on pause," Hickman said.
"The Void" isn't an easy way out or a departure from the original plan, Hickman said. Instead, it promises to be a virtual 5-D entertainment experience that accomplishes many of the goals for the adventure park without the insurmountable costs and sooner rather than later.
Hickman said a quality virtual reality venue is something the world wants. He expects the one built in Utah County will be the first of many such digital theme centers across the globe.
In "The Void," people explore multiple landscapes and share a wide variety of challenging virtual experiences— from walking with dinosaurs to exploring outer space — without leaving a safe environment.
The concept has already drawn attention worldwide, Hickman said, and more than the plan to build "Evermore."
The journey through "The Void" includes feeling the heat of a blazing fire and crossing frozen blocks of ice, watching stones in the floor disappear and rising into the air on a wooden plank lift. Participants feel wind, rain, motion and temperature shifts.
"It's a high-tech wonderland," Hickman said. "It's such an immersive experience."
It's also perfectly safe, he said. "Nothing can actually touch you or hurt you. The walls are all made of a dense foam. The scenarios range from scary to cathartic and peaceful."
"The Void" prototype currently exists in the Evermore warehouse in Lindon but will soon operate in an air dome on property in Pleasant Grove.
Hickman said land will be cleared for the building in the next few weeks, and he expects the attraction to open in the fall of 2016.
Local technical partners — Optimal Design, Unity, Distant Focus Corporation and Xidax — are helping to create face mask helmets, backpack vests, weapons, gloves and the landscaping that will lay over many of the physical props and area designed for Evermore.
Rumors of bankruptcy and a departure from Pleasant Grove are false, Hickman said.
"We're staying here. We still have all of the land," Hickman said. "The plan is to develop it out.
Pleasant Grove Mayor Mike Daniels said things have completely evolved since Evermore initially announced intentions to put a park in Pleasant Grove and then got into the nitty gritty of the internal business model.
"The size and scope of their project outgrew both the size of the land they had purchased and the amount of capital they needed to raise in addition to the millions of dollars Ken (Bretschneider) put up for the project," he said. "Like any smart businessman, he reassessed his business model and came up with a portion of his original concept that takes up substantially less space, is very conducive to the area he is building in and has a very large global appeal. By global, I mean 'The Void' is being contacted by very large and well-established companies in entertainment, science, research, public safety, etc., to buy into his new model.
"This is an ideal situation to be in," Daniels added.
The mayor said there will an indoor entertainment center with eight experience chambers called "pods," allowing for eight different groups of people to have different experiences at the same time, or teams of people can have the same experience in the same pod.
He and several council and staff members with the city have been through one or more scenarios and described it as mind-blowing and totally immersive.
In addition to entertainment companies, educational organizations are contacting Hickman, Bretschneider and Jensen to create scenarios for training police, fire and medical personnel, Hickman said.
Science and exploration organizations are looking to take groups of people on a virtual visit to the deep ocean, to outer space, inside a mountain, or to other inaccessible places that currently can only be experienced by watching a documentary on television.
Salt Lake Comic Con founder Dan Farr is a passionate supporter of Hickman and Bretschneider's effort to create something revolutionary.
Farr tried out "The Void" and said he was "transformed" and caught up in a world he knew wasn't real but one that had his adrenaline pumping and his mind and body working to cope.
"I never really had a virtual experience before," Farr said. "It was such a powerful experience for me. I was definitely taken to another world. I can see the potential of where they're going with this, bringing the two things together — the virtual and the tactical.
"If anybody can pull this off, it's these guys," he added.
Once "The Void" opens in late 2016, tickets for a scenario will cost $29-$39, Hickman said.
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with more than 35 years' experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.
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