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Sandbox VR Makes A Comeback, Signs City Center Bishop Ranch Lease

Like much of the retail world, virtual reality gaming venues were dealt a brutal blow by the coronavirus pandemic. However, the business model could have brighter days ahead with the vaccine rollout progressing and scores of young people aching to venture back into society.

The latest evidence of a retail gaming resurgence is Sandbox VR’s signing of a lease for 6K SF at City Center Bishop Ranch in San Ramon, according to a statement last week by Sunset Development Co., the center’s owner and developer. The gaming company is on an expansion trend with existing locations reopening and another new location launching in Las Vegas, following a pandemic-induced bankruptcy filing and closure of all locations last year, as reported by VentureBeat


Sandbox VR provides patrons a social gaming experience where they gather for immersion in alternate realities like haunted pirate ships, space elevators, alien battles and sporting events in “virtual but uncannily lifelike worlds.” The experience involves a wearable headset and full-body motion coupled with interactions among participants to produce the desired virtual effect.

“We’re excited to bring a completely new and unique immersive experience to San Ramon residents and out-of-town visitors to City Center Bishop Ranch,” Sandbox VR Retail Operations Vice President Aylang Lou said in a statement. “We know that, after a year of staying close to home, people will be looking for a new and fun social activity that lets them escape our current reality, even if just for a couple of hours.”

The new lease marks Sandbox VR’s third Bay Area location. It is expected to be open later this year on the second floor of the City Center Bishop Ranch shopping center, which features 300K SF of retail, dining and entertainment.

With Contra Costa County now in the state's Orange Tier allowing for 25% indoor retail capacity and California’s plan for a full economic reopening in June, Sunset Development Senior Vice President of Retail Jeff Dodd is optimistic about where retail sales will be during the second half of 2021. Another newcomer to City Center, eatery World Wrapps will be opening later this month.

City Center Bishop Ranch in San Ramon, California

“Every month, something new and exciting is happening at City Center Bishop Ranch,” Sunset Development CEO Alexander Mehran Jr. said in a statement. “We’re pleased to add the thrilling experience of Sandbox VR’s virtual reality technology. And World Wrapps will offer guests another unique and terrific dining option.”

Due to Sandbox VR’s indoor and group activity nature, the company struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic when such entertainment venues were shuttered or faced high restrictions. Earlier this year, demand increased by 30% from before the pandemic at Sandbox VR’s Chicago area and Austin locations, as reported by VentureBeat.

“Experiences and entertainment have been a part of the plan for City Center Bishop Ranch from the start,” Dodd said in an emailed statement. “We seek out restaurants, retail, services and experiences that cater to our audience to increase the frequency with which locals visit and to broaden our reach. Sandbox VR will provide another reason for locals to visit and attract customers from a regional trade area due to the unique experience they provide.”