Investor eyes Naperville, Rosemont for virtual reality entertainment
A roller coaster at a major theme park. A thin beam at the top of a skyscraper. An action movie packed with superheroes.
Strap on virtual reality goggles in the new entertainment center Woodridge investor Marcus Beam is planning for Naperville, the Rosemont area and Wrigleyville, and voila.
"Trust me, your brain makes you believe you're there," Beam said.
VR 360 Playground is Beam's idea for the next phase in family entertainment, a place where customers can pay to slide on virtual reality goggles and experience adrenaline, fun, fright, tourism or even meditation.
Through things like a trip to Paris, a scene from a Disney movie or a ride down a zip line, Beam said customers will be transported out of the storefronts he plans to set up and into a whole new realm.
Most virtual reality experiences will last two to five minutes, although some are as long as 15. Customers will pay $15 for their first experience on each visit and $10 for each experience after that.
In Naperville, Beam wants to open VR 360 Playground at 22 E. Chicago Ave. in a former tobacco shop next to a Starbucks. Officials say he is also looking into a location near Rosemont's new Pearl District.
He'll need a bunch of approvals from various layers of the Naperville city government, such as a zoning variance to locate a non-retail business on the first floor of a building downtown, and potentially some tweaks to a liquor license to set up a small bar selling beer and prepackaged wines at the back of the shop.
But Beam said he's excited to be jumping into the virtual reality business, which he's already watched grow as he has invested in a couple of booming firms.
Already a big deal in Denmark and Japan, Beam said virtual reality entertainment studios are spreading around the world, and he wants to be the first to bring an upscale version of the experience to the suburbs.
A location in Wrigleyville already is in the works, and Beam said he is seeking a spot near Rosemont. He also plans to expand to Los Angeles, New York and Orlando this year.
"I'm intrigued," said Katie Wood, executive director of the Downtown Naperville Alliance.
Beam's next step toward his Naperville location is applying for a public hearing before the planning and zoning commission
"VR is the freshest idea in entertainment in decades," Beam said. "It's unparalleled, immersive experiences never before possible."
• Daily Herald staff writer Christopher Placek contributed to this report.