A strange thing happened recently. A few days ago, I posted a story on Evermore, the world’s first adventure park near Salt Lake City, set to open in July 2015. The moment I heard about the park, I reached out to their people to try and snag an interview and heard nothing back. Instead of posting nothing, I decided to research as much as I could find on the web and report on what was available. Literally an hour after that story was posted, I got an email from Ken Bretschneider, CEO of Evermore, looking to do an interview. It was just awkward timing on both ends. However, there are a few things I need to clear up that may have been misrepresented in the last article.
First off, he assured me that they do have a small team with operations expertise in place for Evermore. However, due to various NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) that have been signed, he couldn’t give me any names or specifics and understandably so. He seems to be quite proud of his team, who Bretschneider assured me are the best of the best in the industry with loads of experience under their belt.
The scope of Evermore is actually quite modest considering the initial investment of $100 million (which he assured me will go up once they secure more funding/additional investors). In addition, the 45-acre park does not include an additional 25 acres which will be designated exclusively for parking. As I stated in the previous article, the site is roughly 30 minutes from Salt Lake City just off of I-15. Evermore will be regional, meaning the vast majority of guests will be within a reasonable driving distance from the park.
Considering that Salt Lake City doesn’t have any sort of theme park in the surrounding area, Ken believes that locals, as well as tourists, could use an extra offering in a city that doesn’t have a lot to do in terms of themed entertainment. However, the latest comic convention in Salt Lake proved to the third largest in the country and it was filled with cosplayers looking for an escape from reality, which is exactly what Evermore is all about. Indeed, the CEO did confirm that there will be special events where park guests can dress up in period costumes to enhance their experience at the world’s first adventure park.
What exactly is there to do at this park? That’s a tough subject to pin down and the answers seem to be all over the place.
“My whole life I have wanted to do a project called Evermore,” said Bretschnider. “It’s less of a focus on a theme park and more on location-based entertainment. Movies are kind of a dying form of entertainment… people are looking to the digital forms of interactive media. A restaurant or a bar is one type of experience… and there are a lot of thrill/ride parks out there.”
He went on to say, “We have polled people and found that when it comes to a Disney experience, guests tend to rate attractions like Pirates of The Caribbean or Haunted Mansion higher than the thrill attractions.”
He noted that park guests tend to be invested in more of a theatrical experience that immerses them in a story and tend to favor that over pure thrills. He’s right. That formula of hopping on a doom buggy for an eight-minute journey has served Disney very well over the last 45 years. However, imagine having no doom buggy and being able to explore an environment like Haunted Mansion or Pirates of the Caribbean, meeting unique characters and exploring a truly interactive environment. That is the next level Bretschneider hopes to take Evermore to when the first phase opens next year.
Which leads to one of the biggest problems I think Evermore has: There are currently no branded intellectual properties associated with the project. These days, branding is crucial to getting a new project recognized and often times it won’t even green lit unless it has a recognized name behind it. Ken firmly believes that the Evermore brand can be built from the ground up. However, with Ken’s background in video game development, he is in talks with several video game franchises that might leverage their properties to Evermore.
He truly believes that the drivers for attendance will be seasonal offerings for Christmas, Halloween and summer. Ken is easily most excited about the park’s haunt offering that will be derived from a “Jack the Ripper” theme. Instead of a traditional haunt where you wander through a maze, Ken wants an experience that is more organic and lets you explore one of several unique events throughout the evening. That said, there will be certain scares and methods used to rotate through the various experiences offered at Ripper’s Cove.
In addition, Evermore will also host live concerts throughout the summer season with additional adventurers that could be specifically for that event. Also, they want to host special events like a grand Victorian ball where the participants can dress up in period costume. In addition to experience a live band, dancing and drinks, guests can also have mini-adventures throughout the evening making it much more than just a fancy ballroom event.
Another interesting feature of Evermore? No lines. You read that correctly. Considering Ken comes from a software background, he is developing software that works with smart phones to let park guests know when their next adventure is ready. In the meanwhile, guests will be allowed to stroll throughout the park or in the main square and enjoy live entertainment or food and merchandise offerings until it’s time for their next adventure. So what exactly are these “adventures?” That’s a tough question.
Considering the park hasn’t broken ground yet, the plans are still being finalized and there’s no need announcing to the public promises that could end up changing. In addition, this is a tough park to market because giving away too many details about a true adventure, spoils it for those who haven’t experienced it. Let’s say I create this incredible haunted house with state-of-the-art effects, unique storytelling and totally immersive concept and then write an article on it, or create a video or even a 30-second commercial. The more I talk about the creation, the more it gives away and the less special it becomes when you experience it in person. In today’s digital world, spoilers are everywhere and in the case of Evermore, the less the better. Which represents a huge challenge when they want to start marketing.
Over the years, I have talked to many people who have created some incredible themed entertainment projects. Some have been amazing successes and others have been Titanic failures. Ken clearly has the passion for this project and I genuinely think the world is ready for this type of personalized adventure park. Is Evermore going to be a success? It’s too early to tell. In today’s age of 30-second sound bite answers, there are a lot of factors at stake here and as with any new business venture, it’s complicated. No doubt, I will be chatting with Ken and reporting more on Evermore as it evolves. I genuinely believe in the project and will personally make the trip out to Utah when it opens. Also, a big thank you to Mr. Bretschneider for providing the images in this article, which are concepts and model pieces of Evermore that have never been released to the public.