Lights flash and tires squeal against the track. Even the grip of the steering wheel in your hands brings with it a rush of adrenaline as you settle into a seat and brace yourself for the race.
Whether you’re an experienced racer or not, with helmet on, it’s go time, and it’s only moments before you’re hitting speeds up to 40 miles per hour, dashing through three levels of elevation, a plunging corkscrew and a series of banks that will blow your mind.
Bright colors contrast the black aura around the track at The Grid as electric karts blur by during a mid-December visit with venue mastermind and ultimate creator Ken Bretschneider.
The Grid, which opened just a few months ago in the fall of 2019, is redefining the world of indoor kart racing with the second-longest track in the country, but that’s really only the beginning of all the venue will offer the area.
Just down the street from Evermore Park in Pleasant Grove, Bretschneider’s other epically creative venture, The Grid is not only home to a half-mile track and unique kart racing, but also a high-tech, eclectic arcade and the future home of competitive E-Sports, a next level restaurant, gaming loft and entertainment stage and The Void — an immersive virtual reality experience originally helmed by Bretschneider that is now located in four countries and nearly 20 major cities around the world, from Downtown Disney to Dubai.
“It’s been really great — it’s been super busy,” Bretschneider said of The Grid opening during a venue tour. “Our whole three-dimensional track, it goes up three stories. … Right now it’s about the largest indoor track in the country and one of the most advanced with elevation changes, banks and counter banks.”
Depending on the visit, guests can experience the full SuperTrack, Single Track or even Stealth Night, which, according to Bretschneider, is an “all dark environment” where the karts utilize headlights to navigate, offering an entirely different feel and experience.
“We’re going to add more lighting to the experience; more colored lighting, visual lighting and animated lighting, because people are loving that experience,” Bretschneider said of near-future improvements to the track. But already, things are a level above a traditional indoor racing track.
“We have people coming from Salt Lake all the time because this is better than anything in Salt Lake,” he said. “It’s not your typical racing or arcade place. … This competes with the best in the country and is probably better than most of the entertainment venues even in the biggest cities in the country.”
Part of the reason for The Grid’s early success is Bretschneider’s creative use of his skill sets.
“I started in arts, fine arts, so that’s my background,” he said. “I went from art into digital art, so kind of 3D animation and video game development. I’m always interested in all forms of art, whether it be music or theatrical or whatever, so I like combining all of those elements into spaces that I’m designing, creating more immersive, interesting experiences.”
As to The Grid specifically, Bretschneider said, “A lot of people that come here, you can tell that they’re just diehard racers, but when they come in and see our environment they go, ‘Wow, this is really cool.’ It’s just different. Because you’re used to seeing a very industrial, checkered flags 1950 diner kind of concept. All racing places look the same, and generally do the same thing. Then they come in here and it’s all 1920s deco and retro ‘80s and has a whole different feel to it and they get super excited about it.”
Walking in to The Grid’s front lobby is like taking a step back in time. High ceilings and drop lights combine with vintage-style furniture and impressive lacquered flooring to give almost a 1920s speakeasy vibe, complete with subtle jazz music and large, hand-crafted, deco style artwork, including one painted by Bretschneider himself. First appearances leave many wondering, “Where’s the track?”
“And then after they step through those doors and see this big, massive track, they’re blown away by it,” Bretschneider said.
There are also plans to expand The Grid to other major cities, but for now the focus is on continuing build-out and taking advantage of the current location.
“It’s a good location, central to south Salt Lake County and north Utah County,” Bretschneider said of why he chose the area. “It’s right by the tech centers here. I like Pleasant Grove because this exit off here is one of the prettiest I think, and the mountain views are amazing. So this was really a good strategic location for the businesses here, and it’s worked out really well. Especially here at The Grid, we’ve been super busy. So many nights we’re beyond capacity already for the racing portion. Once we get all the other stuff in, that will help us because we can spread people out.”
As to the “other stuff,” visitors can expect the One Up Restaurant and Lounge, a swanky bistro that has been up and running successfully in California for over five years, as well as an expanded arcade (roughly triple the current size) and, of course, The Void virtual reality experience.
Roughly 11,000 square feet of loft space surrounding three sides of the themed lobby will be dedicated to an arcade and entertainment, with 4,000 square feet set aside for The Void.
“As far as The Grid goes, we focused on bringing the best of the best in entertainment, kind of the coolest new stuff, under one roof, but then also bringing art and music and kind of culture into the environment as well,” Bretschneider said. “It’s a much bigger entertainment concept.”
At The Grid, you can enjoy a “Great Gatsby” style roaring ‘20s vibe mixed with all the tech of “Tron” in an eclectic mashing that offers a dive into the past as well as a futurism that’s both welcoming and unique.
According to Bretschneider, the current trajectory for completion at The Grid is within the next six months, especially since there are other locations, including Chicago, Houston and Seattle, already on the radar.
“It’s an evolving project so we’re learning as we go what works and what doesn’t work, just trying to create a greater and greater experience for customers and make people really happy. You know, that’s the name of the game,” he said. “We’re only in our infancy.”
As gentle jazz permeates the art deco lobby, and popular video games dapple the walls and bring to life the cozy game room, the dark silhouette of the massive loft offers a subtle glimpse of the venue’s future potential, offering the area so much more than just epic racing.
“When we get everything in here, when these rooms are all opened up and going, and you’ve got an entire restaurant and bar and a whole VR entertainment section, and the whole loft is alive … ” Bretschneider began, his voice trailing off as if pondering the possibilities.
The picture, including live music and expanded arcade is an impressive one, that will only add to the incredible track and lobby already open.
“So yeah, coming soon,” he said.