New Projects, New Adventures, New Babies! The 2015 JRA Year in Review

December 22, 2015

2015 Highlight: The Grand Hall Experience at Union Station receives the coveted Themed Entertainment Association Thea Award

2015 Highlight: The Grand Hall Experience at Union Station receives the coveted Themed Entertainment Association Thea Award

2015 marked another great year for JRA. From Sweden to Beijing to LA, we enjoyed designing, managing, opening and celebrating our projects, while meeting fantastic people along the way. A very special thanks to our JRA family (which grew a little bigger as you'll read below), colleagues, suppliers, clients and friends for making this year so special.

Here were some of the highlights:

March 2015   
The Grand Hall Experience at St. Louis Union Station receives the coveted Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement from the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). This projection mapping show, conceived by JRA and produced by Technomedia, has re-imagined an 18th Century space with 21st Century technology.


JRA is selected to provide master planning and concept design for the new, 25,000-square-foot Mascot Hall of Fame. The facility will celebrate the art, science and silliness of mascots in an engaging and entertaining manner. The Hall of Fame is scheduled to open in 2017 in Whiting, Indiana.


JRA Director of Digital Engagement, Clara Rice, publishes an article in the “Museums” issue of InPark Magazine.  The article, “Feelings + Financials”, discusses the ability of museums to generate community capital and their need to better communicate their economic development case to government entities, foundations and the public.


Members of the JRA team attend the 2015 IAAPA Leadership Conference in Dubai, learning all about of the exciting projects springing up in this fast-paced metropolis while taking time to enjoy a little snow in the desert.


From left to right: Dan Schultz, Clara Rice and Linda Round.

May 2015
For the seventh consecutive year, JRA is a proud sponsor of the Association of Children’s Museums InterActivity Small Museum Financial Aid Program. The program, founded by JRA in 2009, provides five museum professionals with complimentary registration to the InterActivity Conference and tickets to all three evening events.

Photo courtesy Association of Children's Museums (ACM). From left to right: Laura Herta Migus (ACM Executive Director), Ainslie Bosig (Executive Director, ExpERIEnce Children's Museum), Majorie Rhychlock (Program Facilitator, Northwoods Chldren's Museum), Marilyn Krill (Executive Director, Trail Head Children's Museum), Denise Bradburn (Executive Director, Discovery Depot Children's Museum), Marilee Jennings (ACM Board President). Not pictured: Mayra Colmenarez (Guest Services/Outreach Director, KidZone Museum).


Angry Birds Activity Park opens in St. Petersburg, Russia. The park, a collaboration between JRA, Rovio and FORTGROUP, is a first-of-its kind family destination that blends the exciting world of Angry Brids with the rich culture and history of St. Petersburg, offering interactive learning activities, a cafe, a retail store and an event space.

June 2015
JRA is selected to provide initial concepts for the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, outlining how the relocated museum will look and operate within its new home at Daytona International Speedway.


JRA Owner/Chief Executive Officer, Keith James, speaks to the “Key Success Factors for Museums in Asia” at the first annual blooloopLIVE Asia conference.

Image courtesy Blooloop.


The June issue of Funworld Magazine interviews Keith for its “Big Boom Theory”article. “The level of energy reminds me of the 1970s, when the industry was booming in North America and Western Europe,” says Keith. “It’s a very exciting time for all of the industry in Asia.”

Image courtesy IAAPA.


The Lao Niu Children’s Discovery Museum of the CNCC opens. The 50 million yuan, 2,400-square-meter museum, a collaboration between China National Children’s Center (CNCC), Lao Niu Foundation, and Beijing National University, is located in the Xicheng District of Beijing. JRA provided complete master planning, design, project management and art direction for the museum.


The Peoria PlayHouse Children’s Museum also opens.
Located in the historic Glen Oak Park Pavilion building on the same campus as the newly expanded Peoria Zoo and Botanical Garden, the PlayHouse includes 8,000 square feet of exhibits based on regional subjects such as farming, construction and the Illinois River.

August 2015
The National Comedy Center (NCC) in Jamestown, New York, USA celebrates its groundbreaking with the help of such international comedians as Jerry Seinfeld and Regis Philbin. The $45 million Center celebrates the history of comedy, the craft, and its contributors and will infuse $23 million into the local economy annually.

Chairman Tom Benson, Journey Gunderson, Executive Director of the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum & Center for Comedy, and Jerry Seinfeld (Dan Cappellazzo/AP Images for National Comedy Center)

September 2015

Sharjah Oasis Real Estate Development announces the successful launch of Sharjah Waterfront City (Sharjah WFC) at Cityscape Global 2015. JRA is providing master planning and preliminary concept design for Sharjah WFC’s Crystal Lagoon Water Theme Park. The park will spread over 1.5 million square feet and include 40 water and dry rides, hoping to attract one million visitors per year from across the Middle East, Europe and Asia.

October 2015

The Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse opens in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. The new Stillhouse offers bourbon enthusiasts the opportunity to tour a small working distillery and bottling line, sample a sample, and purchase Jim Beam merchandise. JRA provided design and implementation for this brand attraction.


JRA wins an international competition to provide initial planning and conceptual work for the new Science Centre Singapore project, set to open next to Singapore’s Jurong Lake in 2020.



Keith James explores the “IP Landscape” as part of the “Theming, Storytelling and Design” education track at the 2015 IAAPA Euro Attractions Show in Liseberg, Gothenburg, Sweden. Keith discusses the opportunities and challenges of incorporating intellectual property into theme parks and attractions. The track is presented by the Themed Entertainment Association.


JRA employees get into the Halloween spirit!


November 2015

JRA welcomes not one, but TWO new tiny team members! Clara Rice, JRA Director of Digital Engagement and Media Relations, welcomes Lily Jane Hlavac on October 30th, and Kate Batt, Project Management Assistant, welcomes Nina Aleksandra Batt on November 10th.

Lily Hlavac

Nina Batt


For the fifth consecutive year, and in keeping with the conference theme of “New. Now. Next!,” JRA VP of Marketing and Business Development, Shawn McCoy, speaks at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Expo on how audience engagement techniques used by theme parks and commercial attractions can be applied to the museum and cultural sector.


The Themed Entertainment Association announces that Keith James will receive the Buzz Price Thea Award for a Lifetime of Distinguished Achievements. The award, considered one of the highest honors in the entertainment industry, will be given to James at the TEA Annual Thea Awards Gala on April 2, 2016. 


Also at the Expo, JRA boasts the top fundraising team for the IAAPA Footprints From The Heart 5K, benefiting Give Kids the World Village.

December 2015
Last but not least, Children’s Museum of Atlanta completes its renovation. The space features two new learning zones focused on science and technology and four revitalized learning zones centered on construction, food, creativity and self-discovery.


Phew, what a year!

The JRA offices will be closed December 24-January 3, and the blog editorial staff will be recharging its batteries next week. But be sure to check back January 5 for our sneak peek at "oh, the places we'll go" in 2016!

From all of us at JRA, Happy Holidays.


Tags: JRA Journeys , JRA Team , Outside the Studio , Project Spotlight

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PROJECT ANNOUNCEMENT: Revitalized Children's Museum of Atlanta Now Open

December 18, 2015

All Images Courtesy Children's Museum of Atlanta

All Images Courtesy Children's Museum of Atlanta

"Bringing new life to the heart of the city" - WABE Atlanta

Children's Museum of Atlanta undergoes a "massive facelift" - Atlanta Journal Constitution

After a four-month, $8.9 million renovation, the revitalized Children’s Museum of Atlanta (CMA) is now open to the public. Founded in 1988 as a virtual “Museum Without Walls” before landing a permanent home at Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park 15 years later, CMA’s mission is to spark imagination and inspire discovery and learning for all children through the power of play.

CMA is the only educational venue of its kind in Atlanta, presenting educational programs and exhibits designed for young children ages 0-8. JRA (Jack Rouse Associates) provided overall planning, design development, and project management for the renovation, which includes new permanent exhibits on its existing first floor and on the new 3,000 square foot mezzanine level.

In addition to the Museum’s upgrades and additions, visitors will now enjoy targeted, age-appropriate programming with a new focus on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math education) to make meaningful connections between school, community, work and global issues. These new focus areas – in conjunction with literacy; culture and geography; health and wellness; and social and emotional lessons – enable the enhanced Museum to further function as a catalyst for play-based exploration and experiential learning focused on the whole child.

New and renovated exhibit spaces include:
Fundamentally Food: Children choose vegetables and fruits from the farm, climb on a John Deere tractor, milk a cow, load boxes onto a delivery truck, and operate a forklift. They can also shop in the grocery store or enjoy a healthy pretend meal while relaxing at a play diner.


Gateway to the World: In the Museum's newest and largest permanent exhibit, visitors travel the world at the Children's Museum of Atlanta, journeying to six continents, launching rockets to other worlds, and climbing to the center of a 14-foot globe to make it turn.

Leaping Into Learning: Little explorers can enter a magical forest, cast their rods to catch colorful fish, climb a tree house, and go under a waterfall without getting wet! Babies and toddlers can enjoy the bubble wall, model car and little house built just for them.

Let Your Creativity Flow: Visitors discover colors and sounds while exploring artists and music from around the world in CMA’s new art and music studio. They can release their inner Picasso at the paint wall, build giant castles at the sand tables, or don a costume and shine like a star on the CMA Stage.

Step Up To Science: This new, permanent, mezzanine-level exhibit explores the inner workings of the human body, the wonder of light, and the technology of robots. Visitors can belly up to the Science Bar and order a hands-on demonstration or experiment.

Tools for Solutions: Children move balls through a giant ball machine using six simple machines, use real tools and materials in the Build-It Lab, learn how to attach make-believe wires, connect pipes, and insulate walls in the Construction House, and create skyscrapers and design the city of the future with blocks.

 “When families come to the new Children’s Museum of Atlanta, they are going to encounter a ‘wow’ experience,” said Jane Turner, Executive Director of CMA. “Especially families who have been here in the past, they will see it as a completely new museum, one of the most inspiring children’s museums in the entire country!”

Tags: Project Spotlight

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Conference World Tour 2015 - The IAAPA According to Chloe

December 04, 2015

Chloe James Hausfeld

Chloe James Hausfeld

Once again, world traveler and Executive and Marketing Assistant, Chloe James Hausfeld, takes us along on her conference journey, this time to the granddaddy of them all - the annual International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Expo in Orlando, Florida.

Wow…what a whirlwind!  I cannot believe that IAAPA Expo was already 2 weeks ago.  Between that, and the Thanksgiving holiday, I am not certain that I have fully recovered yet.  Regardless, here’s a re-cap of my EXPO week in a (large) nutshell…

Saturday, November 14

Linda Round (Marketing & Business Development), Randy Vuksta (Creative Director) and I were the first of the JRA crew heading down to Orlando.  It’s always nice to bump into fellow industry members before a big event.  We were lucky enough to have both Bret Woodbury of LF Creative Group and Cindy Emerick Whitson of Dynamic Structures/Dynamic Attractions on our same flight. 

Quick selfie with the ladies before the start of a crazy week!

We headed straight to the OCCC to check on the JRA Booth, which always turns out fabulous with help from the great people at Freeman

Linda and Randy with Michele Phillips and Veronika Kasalicka…what a team!

Here we are organizing our team badges, and showing off the JRA lanyards during my downtime at set-up.
Linda, Randy and I enjoyed an eventful dinner at Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse in The Hyatt Regency, and then I headed to Howl at the Moon, where my friend Tim Timco of S&S made good on a bet from IAAPA EAS.

Cheers to my Bengals beating the Seahawks!  #WHODEY

Sunday, November 15

The day began with the Annual IAAPA/Give Kids the World Golf Outing at Hawk’s Landing Golf Club.  GKTW is an incredible organization, and having an excuse to golf with Pete Barto and Gerald Ryan of S&S, and Gina Cantrell Claassen of Herschend Family Entertainment worked for me!

Getting ready to tee off with my fab-foursome

Our favorite stop of the day was visiting these two fine ladies: Melissa Timco of Ralph S. Alberts Co., Inc. and Maegan Wallace of Maclan Corp. 

We may not have had winning scores, but our pictures were winners on all accounts.

The IAAPA Young Professionals Sub-Committee had a meeting back at the OCCC that evening where we had a re-cap of the year and focused on our goals for 2016.

I’m pretty humbled to be working alongside this group of people.

My evening was capped with the company of two of the nicest gentlemen in the industry, Walter Bowser of Millennium Elastomers and Will Morey of Morey’s Piers & Beachfront Water Parks…at the B-Line Diner no less.

Monday, November 16

On to another day of booth shopping & set-up…

If you can’t beat em, join em…#unionbreaks

As a new IAAPA M&S Committee member, I attended the 1st-Time Exhibitor Meet & Greet, and then hustled over to see Shawn McCoy (VP, Marketing & Business Development) present "Emerging Trends in Immersive Design".

“The Day a Girl Turned Into A Gorilla”…talk about a tag line!

The evening was quite full, with the IAAPA Chairman’s Reception at The Hyatt Regency, and the VOA Party at BB King’s.

I enjoyed the view of a live painting session by Shane Grammer. The painting was later auctioned off for GKTW.

I’m not sure why I’m even mentioning this, but the JRA crew did end up heading out to catch the Bengals play in the MNF game against the Texans…”that’s all I have to say about that”…

Tuesday, November 17

The show is JUST starting?!?!?!?!  It was time to get my head “in the game” for Day 1 of the IAAPA Attractions Expo.

Paul Noland (IAAPA President and CEO) addresses the crowd on what’s “NEW.NOW.NEXT!”

When you are John McReynolds (Universal Parks and Resorts), and receiving the gavel as the new IAAPA Chairman, who else would escort you but Optimus Prime and Bumblebee??

The day was moving along at a fast pace, but the countdown from 2:00-2:15PM were some of the longest minutes I can remember.  Working for a family company makes things both personal and professional.  Those 15 minutes were ALL personal.  The JRA booth was directly across the aisle from the TEA booth, and they were getting ready to announce the 2015 Thea awards.  I was anxiously (and VERY IMPATIENTLY) awaiting the announcement that Dad (not Keith James during these minutes) was to receive the “Buzz Price” Lifetime Achievement Award. I couldn’t wait to share the great news with everyone…

Well deserved…

Have I mentioned how proud I am?  Can’t wait for the ceremony come April!

I headed to the Young Professionals Forum to end show hours. 

The event was hosted by fellow IAAPA YP Sub-Committee members Erin Shafter (The Walt Disney Company), Ash Smart (Harbour Park) and Will Morey (Morey’s Piers & Beachfront Water Parks).

The Opening Reception was well attended, as was the Young Professionals reception. Both events showed the growth that IAAPA is contributing to the industry.

IAAPA YP Sub-Committee member, Marika Barranco (Monterey Bay Aquarium) accepts the First Young Professional of the Year Award…Way to go, Marika!
I was quickly off to meet Keith and Linda at Exp Party at Funky Monkey, followed by the TEA Party at Big Fish Blue, and the Blooloop Party at BB Kings.  It’s impossible to grant a “Host with the Most” award at IAAPA…

Did I mention that he’s a pretty big deal?!?!?!

Linda gets back to her roots at the WhiteWater suite.

Wednesday, November 18

Day 2 began with the GM/Owner’s Breakfast featuring Joel Manby, President and CEO, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment
The GM/Owner’s Breakfast is also a time when we remember the people from the industry that we have lost over the past year.  It was hard to see one of our very own this year. 

JRA’s, so very missed Co-Founder, Amy Merrill

After a busy Day 2 on the floor, we headed to the European Reception, hosted by IAAPA EMEA Vice President, Karen Staley...

...And then to the Water Park Reception at the new NBC Sports Grill and Brew at Universal’s CityWalk.

Great screen!

Having some fun for a photo opp!

We headed back to the hotel and paid a visit to the Ripley Entertainment/Premier Rides Suite.

Linda and me with our favorite bouncer, Brian!

Some of my favorite people; Will, Kyle and Jordan Morey (Morey’s Piers & Beachfront Water Parks) and Lauren Wood Weaver (Sally Corporation)

Thursday, November 19

Day 3 starts with my favorite IAAPA event of the year…the IAAPA/GKTW Run!

Great turnout this year!!!

Quick selfie before the race with Dawn Tong and Paul Chutter (WhiteWater), Gina Cantrell Claassen (Herschend Family Entertainment), and Nathan Jones (Vekoma Rides).

Time to get started!!!

So proud of the JRA Team: Dan (COO), Shawn (VP, Marketing & Business Development), Linda (Marketing & Business Development), Dana (Assistant Operations Manager), myself, and honorary team member, Nathan Jones (Vekoma Rides) for being the #1 team in fundraising!
After another crazy day on the show floor, we headed to Hettema’s Annual Party…

They always have the best giveaways.

The Nassal Party at Tommy Bahamas’ is always a great party to end the week with great friends.

The more appropriate ice sculpture picture…

Perfectly placed rickshaws are the best way to get back to the hotel after a day on your feet.

Linda, Keith and I enjoyed just that.

Linda, Dawn (WhiteWater West) and me getting photo bombed with our balloons in the WhiteWater suite

Friday, November 20

AHHHHH….last day!  Man, did time fly. The last day of the show is always very bittersweet. It’s unbelievably exhausting, but such a great time seeing friends and colleagues from all over the world. 

There is never ANY bitter sweetness for my feet…they are more than happy to have the show finished!

Per the usual, the JRA team plans a great meal for the final day of the show, and in Orlando, we do it right…at The Capital Grille.

The tradition continues...

Soooooooo delicious…I’m salivating just looking at the picture.

Saturday, November 21

Where did the week go?  It’s already time to head home??  And to a busy weekend no less…

Only one way to start off a busy Saturday...

Shoutout to Kyle Morey (Morey’s Piers & Beachfront Water Parks) for providing me with my in-flight reading.

Dad and I had to take a cab from the airport straight to a very important little girl’s birthday party.  I have missed one before, and I am smart enough NEVER to do that again…

Happy 6th Birthday Mattie Lynn Schmitz!

And, FINALLY, I am happy, and extra comfy, with the pup by my side…and a DOMERS win no less!

Milton blends into the couch, but I assure you that he was happy to see me ;)

I hope that everyone had a successful EXPO…

On another note…I’ll be hosting, “Work Hard, Play Hard: An IAAPA Webinar for Young Professional M&S Members,” next Wednesday, December 9, 2015, from 1:00PM – 2:00PM EST.  Join Lauren Weaver of Sally Corporation and me as we examine the benefits and services IAAPA provides M&S members, from global networking events to the IAAPA certification program.  Here is a link to the registration site.

For those of you celebrating, please have a very happy holiday season!  See you in 2016!

~ Chloe

Tags: JRA Journeys , JRA Team

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SNEAK PEEK: Space Center Houston's Independence Plaza

December 01, 2015

All photos courtesy of Space Center Houston

All photos courtesy of Space Center Houston

Imagine walking where astronauts walked, seeing first hand how they ate, where they slept, and how they achieved their groundbreaking missions. These experiences and more await guests of Space Center Houston's Independence Plaza, which will open to the public in a grand celebration on January 23, 2016. Space Center Houston (SCH), the offiical visitors center of NASA's Johnson Space Center, welcomes over one million visitors per year, making it Houston's top international tourism destination. This latest expansion will offer even more reasons for guests to visit and return.

Independence Plaza features the Space Shuttle Independence, a full-size replica of a NASA space shuttle, perched atop the 905 SCA, the Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft that flew over 11,017 hours and carried shuttles for 35 years. The 240-ton complex will will be the only place in the world where visitors can see a shuttle mounted atop an SCA and be able to enter both aircraft.

Within the shuttle and SCA, exhibits will explore problem-solving concepts; possible career paths in science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and examples of innovation from the shuttle era. Topics include the origins of NASA's Space Shuttle Progam, the difficulties in perching a shuttle atop a 747, the fallen shuttles Columbia and Challenger, and the various research projects currently taking place throughout Johnson Space Center. JRA provided complete planning and design for Indepdenence Plaza, with exhibit fabrication by Pacific Studio.

"Independence Plaza is really really important to Space Center Houston," says Gaylen L. Hooper, Director of Communications and External Relations at Space Center Houston. "This is the biggest project we have done since we opened our doors in 1992." Adds SCH Chief Executive Officer, Richard E.Allen, Jr. added, "we hope that when you leave here you've just got a better appreciation of the accomplishments of the shuttle program."

Space Center Houston Exhibit Manager, Paul Spana, recently led local Houston television affiliate KHOU 11 on a tour of Independence Plaza's work in progress and discussed the importance of the 905 SCA, Space Shuttle Independence and Johnson Space Center to the Space Shuttle Program. Check out the video below to learn more about Independence Plaza, including how Space Shuttle Indpendence journeyed from its former home at Kennedy Space Center to its new home at Space Center Houston. And stay tuned to the JRA blog next month for more information on a grand opening that we're sure will be out of this world.

Tags: Outside the Studio , Project Spotlight

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