Exit Strategy creators unveil $600K immersive entertainment venture in Charlotte

The creative duo behind popular escape room Exit Strategy are at it again.

Jelani Patterson and Mylene Labrie have created a new immersive entertainment experience in Charlotte’s Ashley Park neighborhood.

District 57 is designed to transport guests to a post-apocalyptic setting where they’ll face the Grid — a 30-room challenge course to test mental and physical dexterity. There are also games such as pool, foosball and Pac Man to enjoy along with fast-casual fare and a 12-tap, self-serve bar with beer, wine and cider.

The 20,000-square-foot venue opens Thursday. It is located at 1526 Alleghany St., off of Freedom Drive.

“We basically created a brand new world,” Labrie says.

The duo — founders and creators of Exit Strategy’s escape rooms — said District 57 is more than 2.5 years in the making. A trip to an all-immersive experience in Japan helped provide additional inspiration.

They’ve invested about $600,000 to make it a reality.

“People truly enjoy the mentally challenging and hands-on experience of escape rooms, but now they expect more. District 57 takes this concept to an entirely new and unparalleled level that transports people to a futuristic world where they can escape their reality, which is something we could all benefit from right now,” Patterson says.

They sold their stake in Exit Strategy in October, after serving over 200,000 people from around the world.

“Our dreams and vision had outgrown what Exit is,” Labrie says.

District 57 is set 60 years into a dystopian future, following a  mysterious apocalyptic event. The complex boasts 26-foot ceilings, uses lighting to set the mood and custom-built and recycled items to add to that vibe.

The Grid provides a build-your-own adventure gaming experience by testing visitors’ mettle against 30 different scenarios. Each task takes between one and five minutes to complete.

Teams of four compete to earn the most points in 90 minutes — and can re-try any rooms that stumped them. A smart watch helps track progress.

“You have no idea what the challenge is going to be until you get in there,” Patterson says. “It’s very addictive.”

Future plans call for Bordertown, a next-generation laser-tag concept, and Unknown, a sports simulator with over 40 different games, to open over the next 12 months.

Hours for District 57 are Monday and Friday from 1 p.m. until 10 p.m.; Thursday from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. until 11 p.m.

Reservations for the Grid are recommended. Costs start at $15 for 30 minutes and go up to $26 for a 90-minute session.

SOURCE: Charlotte Business Journal

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