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VR pioneer selects Grand Central for largest venue & first UK site beyond London

Hammerson has signed the world’s most advanced virtual reality experience, Sandbox VR, as part of its vision to diversify the use of Grand Central in the heart of Birmingham and an ambitious strategy to reinvigorate its assets through new brands, entertainment, and experiential concepts.

The 13,000 sq ft unit - set to open this summer - is the brand’s third in Europe and largest to date. This signing supports Sandbox VR’s plans to expand across the UK and Ireland, while elevating the experiential offer at Hammerson’s Bullring & Grand Central, in-line with the wider evolution of the destination.

Taking group virtual reality gameplay and competitive socialising to the next level, Sandbox VR creates a truly immersive experience within exclusively designed interactive worlds, making players feel like they are living inside a game or a movie.

The unmatched adventure is powered by a new generation of Hollywood motion capture cameras, 3D precision full-body trackers, custom hardware and haptic feedback suits, enhancing the touch, vibration, and motion senses for the user.

Alongside its ground-breaking gameplay, Sandbox VR Birmingham is set to include the brand’s much-loved robotic bartender ‘Toni’. Shaking, stirring and serving up to 80 drinks per hour, Toni adds another unique experience to Grand Central’s unmatched hospitality and leisure offering.

Jake Wilmot-Sitwell, Co-Founder and COO at Sandbox VR UK & Ireland, commented, “Following our successful launch in Covent Garden last year, we wanted to kick off our expansion across the UK and Ireland by launching the biggest ever Sandbox VR site in the UK’s second city.

'As the West Midlands’ best-connected retail and leisure destination, the Bullring Estate is the ideal location to launch our second UK site, and we are eager to bring our mind-expanding adventures to this amazing market.”

Toby Tait, Director Asset Management, Hammerson, said, “The signing of Sandbox VR is another big leap forward in the diversification and repositioning of our Birmingham estate.

'This is going to be a transformative year for Bullring & Grand Central with experiential brands and innovative concepts that engage and excite our customers. We are being bolder and more ambitious in our approach as we work to create a truly multi-use destination that we and the city can be proud of.”

Sandbox VR will join a leading line-up of leisure operators within Bullring & Grand Central, including Treetop Adventure Golf and two concepts set to open later this summer: boutique bowling brand Lane7, and the world’s first interactive football experience TOCA Social. Combined with the quality of Grand Central restaurant and dining line-up, Hammerson is also creating a new office, social and entertainment district in the heart of Birmingham, as part of a masterplan to redevelop the former John Lewis department store.