Hy-Vee Arena is the perfect place for a WISE Power demo site, said Brittany Williams, but it also is an opportunity to bring innovative leisure to Kansas City. The startup’s new showroom doubles as an entertainment lounge providing food, drink and virtual reality.
“We figured we needed demo space — like the Tesla space on the [Country Club] Plaza where it’s just kind of a showroom — but instead we can actually utilize the space [to engage consumers],” said Williams, principal at WISE, an energy storage and IoT product firm. “We came up with the concept to bring golf simulators into the space, then we realized there’s not a lot of competition in Kansas City.”
The lounge, which will be open to the public, is expected to feature WISE Power’s patented technology, she said, serving as a way to inform the public about how the firm operates and works throughout Kansas City.
The Hy-Vee deal came after a spontaneous conversation with a friend, added Williams, leading to WISE powering the entire arena, and now occupying about 9,000 square feet on the north side of the complex. The closest equivalent space is located in Iowa, she noted.
Sports-centered startups and businesses run throughout the arena, with the likes of The Laya Center, MindSport, Cherry Sports Gear and KC Crew already opening shop or planning to relocate.
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The original space slated for the WISE lounge at Hy-Vee Arena was much more modest, she said, but the amount of interest has been huge, leading to expanded plans that pushed back its opening date to early 2019.
“We’re contracting people right now to knock down the walls so we’d be able to use the whole space,” she said. “When you’re actually driving down [Genessee Street], you’ll be able to see this place illuminating. We found some amazing LED furniture that lights up and changes colors, which is a nice contrast to the simulators itself.”
WISE’s plan for the golf space was pulled out of the archives, she said. The company previously envisioned an upscale, members-only lounge for Willco Technologies — a cybersecurity firm founder Kevin Williams recently sold to make way for WISE.
“[Hy-Vee Arena] is now the nation’s very first multilevel work complex and they had a huge interest in doing something with golf,” she said. “But once we actually told them we had a finished business plan for a golf lounge, they were extremely excited about it and they offered us the lease that same week.”