Las Vegas Sun

December 14, 2018

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5 years later, Downtown Container Park remains a unique Vegas draw

Chinese New Year Celebrations

Glenn Pinkerton/Las Vegas News Bureau

Crowds gather at Container Park for the Las Vegas Spring Festival Parade’s after party in the Fremont East District, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017.

Amid the dozens of art galleries, breweries, restaurants, nightclubs and tech and cyber companies that have contributed to the restoration and newfound aura of downtown Las Vegas this decade, one project stands out as markedly different.

A 44-foot-tall praying mantis, made of sheet metal and imported from the Burning Man festival, shoots fireballs six stories high from its antennae on beat with pop music playing outside the Downtown Container Park on Fremont and 7th streets. It startles many of the 2,000 daily visitors to the 1.1-acre shopping and entertainment center, but instead of being unnerved, they usually laugh.

“We like to have fun and we care about the community we serve,” said Kristine Reynolds, Container Park general manager. “We consider them friends, family and neighbors and we want to maintain a positive vibe where anybody can come over and have a good time.”

The park, which will celebrate the five-year anniversary of its 2013 opening on Saturday, has grown to include 39 restaurants, bars, a gelato parlor, a clothing store and a toy shop. It has welcomed over 5 million visitors.

The open-air facility is the only area in Las Vegas where a small nightclub for adults operates less than 50 feet from a gigantic playground for young children, complete with a 33-foot slide. Reynolds’ approach to attracting visitors of all ages, income levels and demographics comes from a mission to provide an alternative to more crowded walking experiences on the Strip and the Fremont Street Experience. The facility works to keep age groups apart at appropriate times too: Only adults over 21 are allowed in the park after 9 p.m.

The Lawn at Container Park, a live entertainment venue and event space, hosts live entertainment nightly, including over a half-dozen planned music acts and a photo session with Santa Claus planned during the fifth-anniversary celebration this weekend.

Sonny Ahuja, owner of Bin702, was among the first small groups of tenants to fill the park, made of 43 repurposed shipping containers and 41 locally manufactured cube structures, when it first opened in 2013. Bin702 occupies two of those repurposed containers totaling 640 square feet and specializes in craft beverages, charcuterie and cheese selections as well as mini sandwiches. It welcomes people of all ages, but gets mostly mid-20s locals and tourists — many of whom are from Europe.

Ahuja said he picked Container Park thanks to its small, intimate location. He said he was amazed to see all the strollers and young children on Fremont Street and at Container Park when the facility first opened.

“It’s unique and interesting, and different than a typical brick-and-mortar place.

“A lot of people in other countries have read about Container Park, and they come out of their way to see the space,” he added. “It’s a great option for that kind of clientele.”

Ditto for Lizzy Newsome, owner of Kappa Toys, Container Park’s largest facility. Newsome, whose shop is on the north side of the venue by the park’s main stage, said about half of the venue’s visitors are tourists while the other half are locals.

Newsome, whose assortment of American and Japanese collectible toys appeal to both children and adults, said her container-turned-store is frequented by early afternoon playground-goers just as much as late-night alcohol drinkers and couples on a date.

Reynolds said park vendors are chosen strategically so each store offers a unique contribution to passersby, she said. Few vendors inside the Container Park provide a similar product — there’s only one toy store, one gelato shop, one Mexican-themed restaurant and one Italian-themed eatery.

That reason alone is why many of the area’s vendors, like Ahuja and Newsome, said they’ll continue to operate there, even as they expand their business to other areas of the valley.

“It forces you to be creative,” Ahuja said.

For more information on this weekend’s festivities, visit www.downtowncontainerpark.com/entertainment.