On a mild winter’s day in Las Vegas last Thursday, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, and former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were joined by state officials and gaming industry executives to cut the ribbon on the first building to open as part of a unique partnership.
Black Fire Innovation, UNLV’s new incubator hub which allows companies to test and research new technologies for the gaming industry, is now open at the UNLV Harry Reid Research & Technology Park.
“The economic and academic benefits of the research park are strong,” Sisolak said.
The four-story, 111,000-square-foot innovation building, which includes Black Fire Innovation, is the first project completed by Gardner Company as part of a master-planned development supported by UNLV, the UNLV Research Foundation, and Gardner for the tech park.
“Black Fire Innovation will create opportunities for collaboration between industry and academia that simply aren’t possible on many college campuses today,” Sisolak said.
The tech hub is a partnership between UNLV and Caesars Entertainment where students, startups and gaming companies can collaborate and test new technology for the gaming and hospitality industry.
“Caesars has been at the forefront of gaming and innovation for many years,” Caesars CEO Tony Rodio said as the hub celebrated its grand opening.
Black Fire Innovation is a mock integrated resort and co-working space that encompasses more than 43,000 square feet on two floors of a new four-story building in the park named after the former Nevada Democratic senator who acquired the land from the federal government.
“Black Fire Innovation is unprecedented, bringing together top researchers and industry experts in a unique and dynamic environment that enables emerging student talent, technology partners and the community to work together,” Rodio said.
On the fourth floor of building exists mock hotel rooms, a casino floor and sportsbook, an esports studio, and virtual reality facilities. The space also includes co-working space, conference rooms, full-service kitchen, a classroom as well as office space. The facility includes back-end support like business operations, loyalty marketing, robotics, sustainability, big data and cybersecurity.
Through partnerships like Black Fire Innovation, the tech park serves as a proving ground for new ideas that will expand the region’s leadership role in hospitality and gaming.
UNLV officials say it is also attracting leading technology companies, who want to have a presence in the region and partner with Caesars and the university. Current Black Fire Innovation sponsors include Nutanix, LG, Panasonic, Intel, Allied Communications, among other technology companies.
University spokesman Tony Allen said the partnership between UNLV and Caesars allows for creating and testing products in a safe, controllable environment before they get introduced into a casino.
Black Fire Innovation was the first, but not the last building set to go up on the 122-acre research and technology park located at the northwest corner of Sunset Road and Durango Drive in the southwest valley. The Gardner Company expects to build at least 10 other facilities in the tech park.
Allen said there has been a lot of discussion about future partnerships, but nothing is active now.