Breaking Down AECOM's China Theme Park Pipeline Report 2013

January 29, 2014

In case you missed it in the holiday hoopla, and as originally reported by InPark Magazine, AECOM recently released its 2013 China Theme Park Pipeline Report. AECOM gathered the data for the report via an October 2013 internet and telephone research survey of recently announced Chinese theme and water parks.

According to the report, Asia as a whole continues to show robust growth in the theme park realm. Attendance at the Top 20 Asian theme parks soared 5.8% in 2012 to a record of 108.7 million visits. The report identifies China as the main contributor to this accomplishment, opening 12 new theme parks and 1 new water park in 2012. These 13 parks represented 21.36 billion RMB (~$3.5 billion) in total investment and created capacity for 27.8 million additional visitors.

China currently has 59 new theme parks in various stages of development, most of them concentrated in the country’s northeast and southeast regions. The types of theme parks range from indoor to environmentally themed to cultural, animal, adventure or movie-based. These impressive numbers are only a harbinger of things to come: AECOM expects the Chinese theme park market to have doubled in size from 2010-2015, and to nearly double again from 2015-2020. Within the next six years, attendance figures for Chinese theme parks will surpass those of the United States today.

AECOM’s report identified four new trends in Chinese theme park development:
1. A broad distribution of attractions
2. The expansion of major local operators in an increasingly brand-centric entertainment environment
3. The increased use (or creation) of cartoon-based IP to attract visitors, particularly in retail outlets
4. Significant re-investment in existing leisure facilities

Future trends include an increase in mixed retail/entertainment/residential properties; a variety of visitor participation levels in the parks (i.e., active versus passive), a proliferation of indoor parks (from shopping mall FECs to full-scale attractions) and an increased number of both indoor and outdoor water parks. Chinese developers are currently investing $23.8 billion (US) in theme and water park projects, and they are projected to welcome 166.3 million visitors to their parks as a result of their investments.

So, what has contributed to this explosive growth in Chinese theme park development? According to AECOM, the Central Government recently transferred the majority of development approvals to the Provincial governments, removing layers of red tape for all parks with investment levels of less than RM5 billion (~$826 million). In addition, a burgeoning middle class means there are more families with the disposable income to visit a theme park. Finally, a growing interest in cultural attractions is inspiring increases in both domestic and foreign tourism.

“We’ve been working in China for the past 20 years and have witnessed China’s enthusiasm for museums and themed attractions,” said Keith James, JRA CEO, in reaction to the report. “China’s commitment to creating large scale leisure developments will have impact on our company and on the industry as a whole.”

While the fluctuations and cycles of the global economy make nothing certain, it appears that, through a conscious effort to create a diverse slate (geographically and thematically) of entertainment and cultural assets, China is poised to become a major player in the leisure industry in the next decade.

Tags: Blog N Learn , JRA Journeys

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Meet the Team II: Settlers, Power Rangers and Snowboarding with Lauren Connell

January 24, 2014

Lauren Connell

Lauren Connell

We're back with another Meet the Team segment.  This time we're asking five questions of Lauren Connell, a student in University of Cincinnati-DAAP's industrial design program, ranked by DesignIntelligence as the #1 industrial design program in the world!  Let's read what she has to say about sports, games and her future plans.

What sport do you enjoy watching/playing?

I love to ski and snowboard, which I've done since I was 7 and 9 years old, although I don't get out on the slopes as much as I would like. It's also really awesome to watch competitions, because they do these amazing tricks that leave everyone watching excited.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was probably about 5 years old, the first thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a Power Ranger, specifically the pink one. Ironically, another thing I wanted to do was to create theme park rides, because I would watch movies or shows and imagine what they would be like.

The part of my career I enjoy the most is …

...The endless possibilities. I feel like I can end up pretty much anywhere I want based on the skills I learn and develop. It makes it difficult to choose a specific path, but the opportunities in front of me motivate me to excel so I can end up where I want to be.

My favorite board game currently is...

..."Settlers of Catan", which has recently gotten popular. A lot of people who aren't fans of board games love this strategy game. In it, a different board is set up each time based on four resources - brick, wood, textile, and rock - and each piece on the board has a different, random number. Each player puts down settlements and roads on the corner of these board pieces. When a player rolls the dice, the number they roll gives whoever has a settlement on the number a resource card. People can trade resources and get resources they need other ways, too. Different card combinations create certain things, like more roads and settlements, and the end goal is to get ten victory points. Typically, everyone is about to win at the same time, so it almost always ends up being competitive and fun for everyone.

How would you describe experiential design to people NOT in the industry?
I've had to do this a lot since getting my co-op position at JRA. I say, for example, JRA does amusement parks, museums, and things like that. Then I explain that it's important to involve people in the environment in order to engage them. People have record low attention spans and need ways to interact with their environment in different and innovative ways. JRA provides them an experience through engaging them with the story that is told throughout the environment and creating a connection with them. A big topic right now is storytelling, because it has become such an integral part of design. I'm minoring in marketing, and it seems to be a reccurring theme there, as well. People expect quality in products and experiences, but we must differentiate those things through the story we create. Since I'm new to this, I have a lot to learn, and so I hope I can gain a better understanding about experiential design through my experience here.

Thanks, Lauren! Tune in next week as track trends on the other side of the world.

Tags: JRA Team

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Meet the Team I: Ducks, Theme Parks and Four Square with Stacey Kurzhals

January 22, 2014

Stacey Kurzhals

Stacey Kurzhals

A new year means new superstar co-ops from the University of Cincinnati's School of Design Architecture Art and Planning (DAAP), which is rated as one of the top 10 design schools in the world by I.D. (Intelligent Design) Magazine (and is the only public institution to make that list).  In the first of two co-op profiles, we're talking ducks, theme parks and 4-square with graphic designer, Stacey Kurzhals.

If we had recess during the work day, I would… 4-square!…or take a nap

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I used to draw theme park designs, but I didn't know that was even a job!

What was your very first pet?

A pet duck named Quackers.

How would you describe experiential design to people NOT in the industry?

It's putting the user experience first when designing and trying to create a memorable experience that is able to fully engross the user, or touch them on an emotional level.

My favorite part of the design process is…

Being able to see a design progress from the early stages of sketching to a refined idea with a lot of purpose behind it.

Check out some of Stacey's work at, and don't miss tomorrow's Meet the Team segment, where we discuss snowboards, Power Rangers, and...Settlers of Catan?!  Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!

Tags: JRA Team

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Children's Museum of Siouxland Selects JRA to Design New Facility

January 16, 2014


The Children’s Museum of Siouxland has selected JRA to provide final concept, schematic and detail design for its 8,000 square feet of exhibit space. Completion of the $6,000,000 museum, located in Sioux City, Iowa, USA, is scheduled for summer 2015. The museum has projected 50,000 visitors in its first year of operation, creating a $2 million economic impact for downtown Sioux City. JRA, in collaboration with educational consultant, Mary Sinker, previously completed master planning and preliminary concept development for the museum.

Children’s Museum of Siouxland is envisioned as a family-oriented, hands-on children’s museum with an emphasis on providing educational value while fostering a child’s creativity and imagination. Targeting children ages 6 months-10 years, the museum is committed to reaching out to all children and ensuring a safe and stimulating environment. Exhibits will meet State of Iowa educational guidelines and will focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) learning principles, while also integrating social science, language and the visual arts. Children’s Museum of Siouxland will also aim to help develop attributes in children such as problem solving, self-confidence, discovery and exploration.

The Iowa museum will be deeply rooted in the history, geography and heritage of the Sioux City region, and children will be able to learn about its people and places in interactive and unexpected ways. Visitors will be able to explore the cultural diversity of “Siouxland” via a touch-activated globe in the “Me and You” area, discover how six simple machines move bricks in the “Building” area, role play in a café and market in the “Commerce and Trade” area and investigate the interconnected elements of a farm in the “Agriculture” area. Other exhibits will explore the physical properties of wind, water and the regional terrain. Even the smallest visitors will be able to enjoy a colorful “Infant-Toddler” area. The museum also considers adult involvement in children’s learning, and elements of intrinsic interest to adults will be included in every environment. By engaging school aged children as well adults, infants and toddlers, Children’s Museum of Siouxland will create a stimulating yet fun educational environment that is enriching for everyone.

“JRA has been part of the Children’s Museum’s dream for almost 5 years, so we are thrilled to announce our partnership,” said Kari Kellen, Executive Director of Children’s Museum of Siouxland. “We are also excited to finalize the designs for the exhibits, which will make the museum a reality. JRA’s commitment to our project over the years is reflected by their energetic team. Their depth of talent and passion for early childhood education originally drew us to them, and we are looking forward to getting the project underway.”

“We’ve enjoyed a long relationship with Children’s Museum of Siouxland and couldn’t be happier to continue this design process,” said Mike Meyer, JRA Senior Project Designer. “Together with Kari’s team, we look forward to creating a beautiful, safe and engaging museum and to providing a vibrant educational attraction for the Sioux City community.”


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Baseball, Babies and Angry Birds: The JRA 2013 Year in Review

January 08, 2014

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Crayola Experience - Easton, Pennsylvania, USA

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As we clear out the holiday clutter from our email inboxes and plunge headlong into 2014, we thought we’d take a minute to say thank you to a year that brought some great successes for JRA:


  • • MLB Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig announces that the 2015 All-Star Game will be played in Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark, home of the JRA-designed Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame & Museum.
  • • CEO Keith James presents “Designing for the Global Audience” at the TiLE (Trends in Leisure and Entertainment) Conference in Hyderabad, India.


  • The Cade Museum for Creativity + Invention selects JRA as the winner of its exhibit design competition. JRA completed concept design and master planning for the museum in 2013 and will continue its design work in 2014.


  • Casino Pier, located in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, re-opens its boardwalk and pier to guests for the first time since the devastation of Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. By the end of the summer, visitors could enjoy 15 rides, as well as new and improved games, retail and food outlets. JRA provided master planning and programming for this cherished attraction.
  • • May 24th also marked the opening of the Crayola Experience, which features four floors of family fun and 21 exciting attractions related to one of the world’s most iconic brands (see photo gallery top right).


  • • JRA welcomes its first co-ops from Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). SCAD is the only university in the world currently offering a Themed Entertainment Design MFA program, and we were thrilled to have two of its talented students with us this summer.
  • • Designer Colin Cronin joins the JRA + Blog team, bringing his unique perspective on themed-entertainment design issues, challenges and opportunities.



  • • The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education commemorates the 10th anniversary of the JRA-designed “Mapping Our Tears” exhibit, a wholly unique environmental theater that creatively uses testimonies to “map” the journeys of Holocaust refugees, survivors, liberators and rescuers. The CHHE marked the anniversary with a gala featuring poignant presentations from survivors and supporters.
  • The Jim Beam American Stillhouse receives Gold LEED® certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. JRA worked with Lexington, Kentucky firm Barnette Bagley to bring the American Stillhouse to life.



  • • Shawn McCoy presents latest attraction trends at the IAAPA Expo Museum Day.  In case you missed it, check out the video below:
  • • JRA announces its collaboration with Rovio and Imagine Exhibitions on Angry Birds Universe Traveling Exhibit.
  • • JRA unveils its other new booth at the IAAPA Expo. This one includes a touch table with a searchable database of JRA projects.
  • • The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) names Clara Rice and Shahryn Azmi to its East Coast and Asia-Pacific Boards, respectively. Rice also takes the reins of the TEA’s NextGen Committee.
  • • The TEA also announces that The Mind Museum will receive the 2014 Thea Award for Museum Excellence, which will mark the 5th time that a JRA-designed project has received this honor.
  • • Chloe Hausfeld wins the silver medal in the 6th Annual IAAPA 5K Fun Run, “Footprints from the Heart”, benefiting Give Kids the World®.  The feat marks her second annual medal-winning run for this race.

2013 also featured (by the numbers):

  • • Over 1,200 slices of pizza consumed by JRA staff during brainstorming sessions
  • • 18 local theatrical productions and/or musical concerts designed, produced, managed or featuring JRA employees
  • • 12 participants in the JRA Halloween costume contest (including, from above left, Colin Cronin and Mark Amos)
  • 6 babies (including 2 sets of twins!)
  • • 3 weddings...

…and a renewed optimism about the continuing growth of the leisure industry and cultural community.

We look forward to sharing more of JRA’s people, projects and personalities this year. Stay tuned for another upcoming project announcement in the coming days, and thanks for reading!

Alina and Anika Kemper, twin daughters of Bjorn and Felicia Kemper, wish you a Happy New Year!

Tags: Blog N Learn , JRA Journeys , JRA Team , Project Spotlight

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Happy New Year!

January 01, 2014


On behalf of everyone at JRA, we'd like to wish you a happy, healthy, safe and successful 2014.  Our offices will re-open Monday, January 6, and we look forward to sharing more about people, places, trends and travels on JRA+blog.  We'll begin by re-capping what was for us a fantastic 2013, and offering you a sneek peak at our upcoming posts.  As always, if there's something you want to know about themed attractions, museums or the industry, please comment here or on our Facebook page, or send us a tweet.

Thank you for your support of JRA+blog, and again, all the best for a fantastic new year.

- Clara J. Rice,

Editor, JRA+blog


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