Happy Holidays from JRA!

December 23, 2011


- Your Friends at JRA :-)

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Honoring Rick Steele's "Interesting" Career

December 22, 2011

Senior Project Manager (Ret.), Rick Steele

Senior Project Manager (Ret.), Rick Steele

It was a bittersweet celebration Tuesday night as JRA staff and friends paid homage to the 37-year career of Senior Project Manager, Rick Steele.

Rick met Keith James while working in the fiberglass shop at Kings Dominion in 1974. He went on to become the park’s Manager of Construction and Building Maintenance before leaving for similar posts at Canada’s Wonderland and later Australia’s Wonderland. Following his sojourn in Sydney (where he welcomed his beautiful daughter, Josie), Rick subsequently worked for Kings Productions Corporate, Disney Imagineering and a Malaysian themed entertainment company. He joined the JRA team in 1998 as the company’s on-site project manager for Volkswagen Autostadt and has since worked on the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, The Merlion and Ft. Siloso attractions for Sentosa Island, Singapore, the Coca-Cola Pavilion at Shanghai Expo 2010 and Ferrari World Abu Dhabi.

The JRA team honored Rick with an hourglass bearing the inscription: “Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Retirement,” as well as a full-color photo book offering snapshots of the many locales Rick has lived and worked in over his years in the attractions industry. “37 years,” reflected Chief Operating Officer/Owner, Keith James. “What a ride we’ve had!”

Two of the things we’ll miss most about Rick are his sagacity and wit, so as a tribute we again offer Rick’s Six Simple Rules for Project Management and Life:

  1. Never give a wrong answer - "I don't know, I'll find out and get back to you" is an acceptable answer. The most common mistake is being pressured into making a guess. Wrong answers have to be corrected, and if the correction takes place after the answer is relied upon, there will be a cost, usually in time and dollars, to fix it. This is often expressed as "there is never enough time to do it right but always enough time to do it over" to fix the problem.
  2. Nothing is more important than opening day.
  3. Fast, cheap, good. You only get to choose two.
  4. The only chance to save time is at the beginning of a project.
  5. ‘I don't understand’ is the smartest thing anyone ever says.
  6. There are no good surprises.

Rick’s parting words to us Tuesday night were, “thanks for an interesting life.”

Thank you, Rick, for everything.


Rick's favorite Dilbert cartoon.


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The JRA Holiday Party: Capturing the Fun of the Fifties

December 20, 2011

It was an evening of cool hepcats and boss threads at Jack Rouse Associates' 1950's-themed holiday staff party.  From poodle skirts to Pan Am, saddle shoes to well, the just unusual, costumed JRA staff members enjoyed music, food and holiday cheer at the home of Chief Executive Officer/Owner, Keith James.  The theme was inspired by James' Happy Days-esque kitchen, complete with neon, a Wurlitzer jukebox and a sofa formed from the back of a '57 Chevy.

"This was a terrific opportunity to bring everyone together, thank them for their work this year, and celebrate the holiday season," said James.  "Not to mention the costumes were outstanding."

See below for some choice pics from the event, and check out our Facebook page for even more photo fun!  Thanks for reading, and be sure to join us Thursday as we raise a glass to Senior Project Manager (and soon to be retiree), Rick Steele.

Executive Assistant, Chloe James and VP of Production, Ron Bunt

Senior Project Designer, John Nagel, and Senior Project Director, Rob Morgan, sporting their actual high school letter jackets!

Senior Project Coordinator, Kelly Ellis, and yes, that is actually Creative Director, Randy Vuksta.

CEO/Owner Keith James gets a holiday peck form his wife, Patti.

Tags: JRA Team , Outside the Studio

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What wonderful and creative people! I wish I had such colleagues!
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The ABC's of Design and Project Management: Give Me An 'E'!

December 15, 2011

Generating speeds up to 150 mph (240 kmph), Formula Rossa is definitely Ferrari World Abu Dhabi's E ticket.

Generating speeds up to 150 mph (240 kmph), Formula Rossa is definitely Ferrari World Abu Dhabi's E ticket.

Happy holidays, and welcome to another edition of Blog N’ Learn: The ABCs of Design and Project Management. Today, we’re moving down the alphabet to E, E ticket, that is.

E ticket rides and attractions are commonly thought of as the “ests” (i.e., tallest, fastest, biggest, etc), and are typically the most expensive to produce. The history of the E ticket derives from the early days of Disneyland. Back in the 1950s, instead of paying a blanket admission fee to gain access to all attractions, guests paid a small fee at the gate and then a separate fee per show or ride. To make this admission system more efficient, the per-attraction fee was replaced with a coupon book, each containing a certain number of coupons (or tickets) stamped A-C. An ‘A’ ticket was typically redeemable for the smallest, least popular rides. Mid-sized attractions were ‘B’ tickets, and the largest rides and shows were called (not surprisingly) ‘Cs’.

As the park grew, so did the number of ride/show classes. In 1956, new attractions and several C-ticket rides (such as the Jungle Cruise) were given the new D designation. Three years later, with the creation of Matterhorn Bobsleds and Submarine Voyage, the E ticket was born. E remained the top ticket at Disneyland for the next twenty years, eventually including such classics as Space Mountain, the Haunted Mansion and the Enchanted Tiki Room. The coupon book system expanded to Walt Disney World upon its opening in 1971, but only a few years later, California’s Magic Mountain introduced the all-ride-inclusive admission ticket. In the face of this competition, the Disney parks gradually phased out the alphabetical ticketing system in favor of the single-fee ticket still in place today.

While you’ll no longer be offered a coupon book on your park visit, the term E ticket has remained a prevalent term both in the attraction industry and in popular culture. Sally Ride, the first woman in space, famously described her shuttle launch experience as “definitely an E ticket!” Disneyland and Walt Disney World now offer the eTicket print-at-home electronic ticket option, a clever modernization of the original term they created.

So now the next time you head to a theme or amusement park, you’ll know that the most exciting, enjoyable experiences can be summed up with the letter E.

On Tuesday, we’re decking the halls with a recap of the JRA Holiday Party. Thanks for reading, and we hope you’ll enjoy some E ticket experiences this holiday season!



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Outside the Studio: For the Love of Oakley

December 13, 2011

Senior Project Designer (and local historian), Scot Ross

Senior Project Designer (and local historian), Scot Ross

First, it was a hobby. A couple of articles here. A photo or two there. But for JRA Senior Project Designer Scot Ross, a simple fact-finding mission has become a labor of love and an exploration into the past of one of Cincinnati’s most charming addresses. For today’s Outside the Studio segment, Scot shares how For the Love of Oakley came to be, how it relates to JRA, and what he hopes it will accomplish for the local community.

“I was trying to find out about the history of our house and kept stumbling onto the history of our neighborhood,” said Ross. “Our community grew around an industrial area that was known as the ‘factory colony.’ Its working class history was not well documented, so I began to aggregate the pieces I'd found and discovered a richly layered and largely forgotten story of what is now one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in the city of Cincinnati.

The foundation of our work here at JRA – whether it’s a science museum, a large corporate visitor center or a little, family-owned amusement park – is about telling stories. At the heart of storytelling is where we find our humanity and that's what makes history speak to us. Taking those storytelling lessons out of the studio and applying them to something I’ve grown passionate about seemed like a natural fit.”

Scot’s passion has translated into a several Oakley history displays for the local library, and he has recently begun work on a series of informative and entertaining mini-documentaries, the first of which can be found here.  He’s currently at work on a website that will allow anyone to enjoy the growing archive of text and images.

Ross’ work hearkens back to the works of historian David McCullough, who reminds us, ‘No one ever lived in the past. They lived in their own present.’ “The events may have happened a long time ago,” says Ross, “but the driving forces behind them are still very much the same today – relocating for a job and better life, buying a home where land is cheaper, opening a business to serve a growing community.

The stories are entertaining, but they also foster a deeper appreciation of our neighborhood and the people who built it. Indirectly, I hope that leads to a greater sense of community.”

Thank you, Scot. Tune in Thursday for another ABCs of Design and Project Management segment, where we’ll decipher the mysteries of the elusive (and usually expensive) “E-ticket.”

Tags: JRA Team , Outside the Studio

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10 Keys for Successful Museum Experiences: Putting It All Together

December 08, 2011

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The Green Bay Packers understood that having a top-notch Hall of Fame would be a key ingredient to a successful new stadium, keeping interest in the Packers alive (and generating revenue) all year round.

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You've designed your museum for the audience, accommodated guests of all types and told compelling, personal stories with strong takeaway messages. Your exhibits are repeatable, updateable and provide "only here" experiences.  You connect to your local community and host events that keep them coming back.  With these eight keys in place, you are on your way to make your physical space a dynamic cultural institution.

But sustainability is more than bricks and mortar.  Effective operations, multi-faceted marketing, sterling customer service and a strong vision for the future are equally important in ensuring future success.  These are the topics we will cover in our last segment of Shawn McCoy's 10 Keys for Successful Museum Experiences

  • 9. Think as much about marketing, customer service, operations, maintenence as you do on the exhibit experience.

A common mistake that the developers of new projects make is to spend all of their energy on the development of the exhibit experience and forget about other important parameters such as marketing, customer services, operations and maintenance. As stated previously, in order to attract your target audience, you have to begin a strategic marketing and public relations campaign well before you open. Once you attract your audience, your customer service and operations are critical to ensuring that your guests have a positive experience. Your exhibit experience might be fantastic, but if buying your ticket was an ordeal, the wayfinding was confusing and the staff seemed apathetic or rude, the guest will forget about the wonderful exhibits, and never return due to the other negative aspects of their visit. An energetic, well-trained staff who treat visitors as they guests that they are will go a long way toward creating a memorable repeatable experience for you target audience. A commitment to ongoing maintenance is also very important, as broken exhibits and unclean facilities will also cause a negative experience for your guests.

The Field Museum developed a comprehensive marketing campaign around A T-Rex Named Sue.  Sue even has her very own Twitter account!

  • 10. Think about years, 5, 10 and 15 as much as opening day.

Perhaps the most important key to developing a successful project is to think about how the facility will operate in the years after it opens. Too often, those developing projects are so excited about getting to opening day, that they don’t put any planning into how the facility will operate in year 2, 5, 10 and beyond. As the only successful facilities are those that work well over the long-term, you must begin thinking about the long-term operation of the facilities (including a plan for operations, programming, adding new exhibits, etc.) at the outset of the project.


We hope that these guidelines provide a bit of insight how to plan, design and operate a successful museum experience. Museums are a vital part of the educational, social and cultural fabric of the communities in which they live, and their long-term viability is to all of our benefit.

Thanks for reading.  Next week, we'll turn our attention from museums to theme parks with a return to our ABCs of Design and Project Management, and a blog post sponsored by the letter E...

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Outside the Studio: Home Is Where the Art Is

December 06, 2011

Editor’s Note: JRA is a proud sponsor of ArtWorks.

Since this is a season of giving thanks, we thought for this edition of Outside the Studio we’d take a moment to offer our thanks for one of Cincinnati’s most vibrant arts institutions.

Founded in 1996, ArtWorks connects artists of all ages with opportunities in the arts through inspiring apprenticeships, community partnerships and public art. To-date, ArtWorks has employed over 2,500 area youth and 500 professional artists through its Summer Program, pairing local teens with the pros to create innovative murals throughout the city. This award-winning program has resulted in 46 murals in 28 Cincinnati neighborhoods and 3 nearby cities.

This year, ArtWorks spearheaded a new program entitled SpringBoard, an 8-week program that helps creative professionals construct a business plan and develop marketing and financial management skills. The goal of the program is to enable artists to turn their work into a sustainable small business enterprise. Connections made with other creatives and entrepreneurs through the program help lay the groundwork for future success.

To support these programs, the non-profit organization recently welcomed 700 supporters to its annual fundraiser, Secret ArtWorks. Over 400 local, national and international master artists were invited to submit their own 5”x7” mini-masterpieces. Pieces were displayed online and at a local hotel, but the names of the artists remained hidden until the night of the event. Attendees received a ticket good for one piece of art, and when the curtains opened, guests rushed into the gallery space to claim their original oeuvre. Only after “winning” their secret artwork did they finally learn the identity of its creator.

JRA Senior Project Director (and ArtWorks Board Member), Randy Smith, has been a perennial participant in Secret ArtWorks and always looks forward to contributing his art to this special cause: “Artworks has been a great opportunity for us to help young artists realize there are places for them in the workforce,” says Smith. “It’s been an honor and a pleasure (not to mention a lot of fun) to contribute pieces for Secret ArtWorks over the years.”

ArtWorks – one of the many cultural resources that makes our hometown such a great place to be.

Thanks for reading. Thursday, we’ll close out the 10 Keys for Successful Museum Experiences. Until then, whether halfway around the world or right outside your door, we hope you’ll enjoy some arts and culture experiences this holiday season.

Photos: Torn Paper Studios

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10 Keys for Successful Museum Experiences: Connecting with Your Community

December 01, 2011

Volkswagen's Autostadt, designed by JRA and located in Wolfsburg, Germany, is adding a host of events and attractions this winter, including ice shows, an Alpine Wonderland, and this tobaggan run.  Photo courtesy Autostadt.

Volkswagen's Autostadt, designed by JRA and located in Wolfsburg, Germany, is adding a host of events and attractions this winter, including ice shows, an Alpine Wonderland, and this tobaggan run. Photo courtesy Autostadt.

Hello, and welcome to another Blog and Learn.  Today we continue with VP of Marketing and Business Development Shawn McCoy's 10 Keys for Successful Museum Experiences.  It's been a few weeks since we last met on this topic, so let's review the first six keys:

  1. Design for the audience (interests, style and experience)
  2. Accommodate various demographics, interests and learning styles
  3. Connect on an emotional level by telling authentic, personal stories
  4. Deliver strong takeaway messages
  5. Make the exhibits flexible and updateable
  6. Provide "only here" experiences

But museums are not just for the out-of-town visitor, right?  Essential to a museum's success is connecting with the local community.  That's where you'll find your repeat guests (and potential donors).  In today's post, Shawn explains how to build relationships at home and create experiences that will attract the locals and keep them coming back.

7. Connect to local audience first/make it a community resource

A mistake that many nationally focused museums often make is to focus on marketing to a national audience first, and inadvertently ignore their local audience. Nothing will cause the failure of a museum project quicker than your offending your local audience who then will not support the project. Repeat visitation is vital to the long-term sustainability of a museum project. Therefore, your local audience must feel that the museum was built with them in mind. A good way to make your local communities feel part of your project is to inform them about its development from the very beginning through good public relations. This can be achieved through traditional newspapers, public meetings, your website and social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. You can also involve them in the design process itself through open community forums; by asking them to loan artifacts and memorabilia; by posting design drawings on your website for review and comment.

Once the exhibit is open, it is important to position the museum as a local resource. You can accomplish this by making free meeting space available for use by local groups; by giving an admission discount to those visitors with a local address; and by providing seminars or speaking engagements aimed toward local audiences.

8. Programs and events

While your new museum will be most known for the quality of your exhibits, especially at first, it is the quality of your ongoing programs and events that will contribute more to your success in the long term. By staging exciting programs on a regular basis, you will be sure to keep your facility fresh, exciting and relevant. Examples could include topical temporary or traveling exhibitions; speaking engagements by content experts or authors; seminars; after hours events, etc.

Thank you, Shawn.  For our final post in the series, we'll shift to the operations and planning side.  How do you provide customer service that is as dynamite as your new exhibit(s), and what do you want your museum to look like in the years (and decades) to come.  Until then, thanks for reading, and we hope you'll enjoy a museum experience or two this holiday season.

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