The Friday Fives: Taking Art and Inspiration with Mikaila Wenker

September 23, 2016

Mikaila Wenker

Mikaila Wenker

 Autumn at JRA brings more than candy bars on the reception desk or pumpkin spice in the break room - it also brings new co-ops from the University of Cincinnati's world-renowned School of Design, Architecture Art and Planning (DAAP). Loyal readers of the JRA blog know what that means - it's time for another round of Friday Fives. We've asked our new co-ops to answer five questions from a [random] list, plus a bonus: "what is your dream project?". First up - Graphic Communication Design major, Mikaila Wenker.

Best thing about the industry…

My absolute favorite thing about being in design is the fact that I’m not just a designer. For example, a project developing the signage for a new bug exhibit in a museum takes me from designer to bug expert, and that flexibility and constant learning drives me everyday. 

I would advise anyone starting out in a creative career to…

Not give up or make assumptions about fields you have never experienced! My whole life I never thought I would pursue something in the creative field, and then once I saw that design is more than just being a good drawer or artist, it completely changed my perspective. Being open to growing creatively gave me the opportunities I have today, and I am so thankful for it. 

My favorite exhibit/attraction is…

By far one of my favorite places to be is the Cincinnati Art Museum. The atmosphere is so peaceful, and the space itself is so clean and minimalistic that it allows for the art to shine. I could walk around that place for hours! 

I’m reading…

Currently, I am reading Love is a Dog from Hell, which is a collection of poetry by Charles Bukowski. I’ve always enjoyed poetry because it’s short yet contains enough to really make you think. It isn’t very time consuming, so I can quickly move through it whenever I have a chance - like on the bus or during my lunch break. 

If my house had to be made of something edible I would definitely choose…

Chocolate. But I would soon be homeless due to the fact that I’m a total chocoholic. 

What is your dream project? 

Honestly, I just love projects that make a difference. Whether big or small, as long as it has a positive impact on society or makes someone’s day easier/better, I am more than happy to work on it. So I guess my dream is to have every project I ever work on meet those standards!

Interested in learning more about Mikaila? Check out her portfolio, and welcome her to the team!



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I've Got a Golden Ticket: A Cedar Point Adventure

September 15, 2016

This week, we've turned over the blogging reins to Director of Marketing and Business Development, Chloe Hausfeld. Chloe recently attended the Golden Ticket Awards and was eager to share her adventures!


The Golden Ticket Awards are coined as the “Networking Event of the Year,” and I had the privilege of attending them this past weekend at Cedar Point, in Sandusky, Ohio, with Keith James. It’s not very often that there is an industry event so close to home, so that added an extra charm for me. The Golden Ticket Awards are presented annually to honor the “Best of the Best” in the amusement industry.

Here’s a little re-cap…

Thursday, September 8

It’s been quite some time since KJ and I took a road trip together. I dare say it’s been since my glory days on the soccer field where he rarely missed a game. Not much has changed though; we both agree that anything over 45 minutes is too far to drive.

Posing for a car selfie to get the drive started off right!

I loaded up my bag (from my new favorite bookstore in Beijing) with goodies, and we ended up with a relatively smooth ride. We made great time, and were lucky enough to drive along the causeway to Cedar Point and see a beautiful sunset on the water. Not only did we make perfect timing for the sunset, but we also made it just in time to see the kickoff for the start of the NFL season.

My bookworm bag of goodies, and the start to another year of football!

Friday, September 9

I started the day off with a great run with Walter Bowser (Baynum Painting Inc.)

Soaking my feet while getting a beautiful picture of Hotel Breakers

It was time to get the weekend officially started, so KJ and I met at registration.

Packet pick-up

Cedar Point was closed to the public on Friday, but Gary Slade (Amusement Today), and his team, pull out all the stops for the GTA attendees. We started with the guided bus Legacy & Landmark Tour, followed by the Behind-the-Screams Tour; each showcasing different features that the park offers to its guests. The Coasters & Cocktails Reception, in the Valravn Plaza, was one of my favorite aspects of the day. We had the opportunity to take a ride on Cedar Point’s new dive coaster; my voice is still recovering. Not to mention the Exclusive Skeleton Crew performance that we had the honor of witnessing in Celebration Plaza.

Top – Posing with a performer during the Behind-the-Screams Tour, and then enjoying his acrobatics.
Bottom Left – Getting ready to brave Valravn with Joanna Guy (Premier Rides, Inc.)
Bottom Right – Enjoying a beautiful evening at Cedar Point with Nathan Jones (Vekoma Rides)

We paid tribute to a couple of industry greats, Mike Chance (Chance Rides) and Mark Moore (Uremet Corporation) during toasts in their remembrance at the Chef’s Table Food Feast at Lakeside Pavilion. The day was capped with an End-of-Evening Gathering at Surf Lounge.

KJ poses with Jim Seay and Sara Ingram (Premier Rides)

Saturday, September 10

GTA attendees were given exclusive early access to the park on Saturday. The weather was a bit questionable at times, but we made the most of it, and had a great time.

Posing with the “Selfie King” Pete Barto (S&S Sansei)

After an enjoyable morning spent at the park, it was time to get down to some real business…naturally, a group of us headed to Quaker Steak & Lube to catch some games.

It’s a good Saturday when both of my teams win!

The evening began with the Golden Ticket Awards Red Carpet LIVE! for a pre-show of the events to come later on, and was followed by a fabulous dinner in the Lakeside Dining Room.

Lots of laughs at this dinner table
Clockwise from front left – John Andrews (Baynum Painting Inc.), Kimberle Rolle Samarelli (NJAA), Chris Baynum (Baynum Painting Inc.), Ken Kobane (Apex Parks Group), Gina Guglielmi (Intermark Ride Group), Keith James (JRA), Chloe Hausfeld (JRA), Walter Bowser (Baynum Painting Inc.)

The 19th Annual Golden Ticket Awards was held in the Cedar Point Convention Center. The room was certainly filled with people representing some of the most esteemed and respected parks around the world.

Members of Cedar Point’s Bandstand USA perform for the GTA crowd.

The Post-Party was held at the Surf Lounge, where everyone reminisced on the fun weekend, and checked in on when they’d be seeing one another next.

Smiles from Gina Guglielmi (Intermark Ride Group), KJ and me. Until next year!!!

Sunday, September 11

We headed out bright and early to make sure we made it back for game time (if you haven’t noticed a theme from the weekend, I’m a bit of a football fan). It was a tighter game than I would have liked, but I’ll take a Bengals “W” no matter what!

Watching intently with my nephew, Mason

Thanks, Chloe! Be on the lookout for Chloe next week at the IAAPA Euro Attractions Show, and turn in next time for more adventures from her conference world tour. 

Tags: JRA Journeys , JRA Team , Outside the Studio

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Conference World Tour: Experiencing the Beauty of Barcelona at EAS

September 07, 2016

If you've read our latest blog, you know that we are excited to embark on another Conference World Tour! Our first stop, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Euro Attractions Show, happens to take place in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Barcelona. This cosmopolitan capital of Spain's Catalonia region offers mesmerizing architecture, luscious food, and picture-perfect weather. 

It's easy to forgo business for pleasure in Barcelona, but there are plenty of business opportunities to go around at EAS. The crowd of attractions industry professionals convening at the Fira Gran Via Convention Center September 19-22 will be 9,000 strong, including over 425 exhibiting companies.

The 10,000+ net square meters of exhibit space make this year's Euro Attractions Show one of the biggest in IAAPA's history, but the show floor isn't the only place to experience the expo action. Also on the agenda for the week are over 15 educational sessions, the IAAPA Safety Institute, the IAAPA Institute for Attractions Managers, EDUtours, a variety of segment-specific forums and panels, evening networking receptions, and a sold out post-tour to Madrid and Sevilla. As a Silver Sponsor of EAS, JRA is the official sponsor of the EAS Leadership Breakfast, which will feature Carlo Bonomi, main shareholder of PortAventura World. With all of these activities, IAAPA promises an "epicenter of fun," and as always, we're sure they won't disappoint. 

With its gorgeous setting, emphasis on education, and ample opportunities to connect, the 2016 IAAPA Euro Attractions Show will be one to remember. But don't take our word for it - hear what other industry professionals have to say via the video below.

Ready to join us? Click here to register, and visit us at booth 1121! We'll see you in Barcelona!

Tags: JRA Journeys , JRA Team

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PROJECT ANNOUNCEMENT: Land of Legends Theme Park Now Open

September 06, 2016

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Land of Legends Theme Park • Belek, Antalya, Turkey

Gallery images courtesy Polin Waterparks & Rixos Hotels

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Legend of Aqua, the first phase of Rixos Hotels’ 639,000-square-meter Land of Legends Theme Park, is now open, and guests are already calling it a “world class destination.”

Land of Legends Theme Park is the result of an international collaboration between Rixos World Parks & Entertainment (Serik, Turkey), Emaar Real Estate (Dubai, U.A.E.) and global cultural creativity brand Dragone Productions (La Louvière, Belgium). JRA (Jack Rouse Associates – Cincinnati, Ohio, USA) developed specialized zones for the water park and oversaw its master planning, concept and schematic design. Polin Waterparks (Dilovasi, Turkey) delivered a wide assortment of slides for the water park, as well as a water playground, a spray zone, wave and river systems, a SurfStream®, a Wave Ball and an entire hydro-mechanical system, including water circulation and filtration.

A world-class destination
The US$1 billion Land of Legends resort — designed with a Roman Empire/Greek Poseidon theme — takes its aesthetic cues from its picturesque setting between the Taurus Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. The resort combines not only entertainment and adventure, but also education, nature, retail, luxury housing and theater to create a diverse attraction mix. Covering 639,000 square meters (6,878,139 square feet), Land of Legends includes a 196,000-square-meter (2,109,726-square-feet) shopping boulevard; a luxurious 17,000-square-meter (182,986-square-foot) five-star hotel; a 146,000-square-meter (1,571,531-square-feet) wildlife park; and a viewing terrace that reaches 111 meters (364 feet) in height. When fully completed, Land of Legends will also include a 340,943-square-meter (3.7 million-square-foot) theme park, master planned and designed by JRA.

A signature water park for the whole family
The 280,000-square-meter (3 million-square-foot) water park, with a giant wave pool at its center, plays a featured role at the resort. The park also features an aquarium, a dolphinarium, a 5D cinema, a glass-walled restaurant and over 72 aquatic slides and attractions provided by Polin. The water slides offer fun for the thrill seeker as well as the thrill averse, and include “The Magicone” – the region’s first funnel slide, “SurfStream®” – the region’s first standing wave-surfing machine, a looping slide, high-speed slides, family rafting slides and a lazy-crazy river. The park also features kids attractions and a ladies-only area, making Legend of Aqua at Land of Legends truly a destination for all.

A new opportunity

"Our client group was always gracious and hospitable, but more importantly, they became friends to all of us here at JRA," said Randy Smith, JRA Senior Project Director. "It is extremely satisfying to see a project come to fruition, open with vitality, and operate smoothly. We are proud to have played such an integral part from the beginning."

Dr. Kubilay Alpdogan, the Director of Sales and Design for Polin Waterparks, says Polin considers the project to be a pinnacle of its achievements for 2016. “No other waterpark has been built to rival Land of Legends — at least not in the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) region of the world,” said Alpdogan. “It’s truly a new opportunity for families to enjoy time together.”


Tags: Project Spotlight

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Full STEAM Ahead: JRA's 2016 Year in Museums

September 02, 2016

From lifetime achievement awards to blockbuster project openings, 2016 been a memorable year for JRA. We've enjoyed the people we've met and the places we've traveled so far and look forward to what the rest of the year will bring.

Take a look at JRA's Year in Museums (with a few other surprises thrown in):

January 2016

Space Center Houston Takes Flight

Space Center Houston opens its Independence Plaza exhibit, in which visitors are able to enter an original shuttle aircraft and experience the groundbreaking era of space exploration through educational exhibits.

" is rare that average citizens get to see, in person, the awesomeness of NASA's capabilities. That's one of the reasons that the new exhibit at Space Center Houston, featuring the Boeing 747 jetliner that ferried the space shuttles to and fro across the United States, is so important." -

But it is rare that average citizens get to see, in person, the awesomeness of NASA's capabilities. That's one of the reasons that the new exhibit at Space Center Houston, featuring the Boeing 747 jetliner that ferried the space shuttles to and fro across the United States, is so important. - See more at:
But it is rare that average citizens get to see, in person, the awesomeness of NASA's capabilities. That's one of the reasons that the new exhibit at Space Center Houston, featuring the Boeing 747 jetliner that ferried the space shuttles to and fro across the United States, is so important. - See more at:
But it is rare that average citizens get to see, in person, the awesomeness of NASA's capabilities. That's one of the reasons that the new exhibit at Space Center Houston, featuring the Boeing 747 jetliner that ferried the space shuttles to and fro across the United States, is so important. - See more at:

February 2016

A New Children's Museum Launches in Sioux City

LaunchPAD Chilldren’s Museum opens in Sioux City, Iowa. The museum’s 8,000 square feet of exhibits teach children basic STEAM principles through hands-on play on subjects such as agriculture, construction and health. Visitor response is overwhelming, and LaunchPAD reaches its Year One attendance goal in only six months.

"Visitors young and old are impressed with the Museum's exhibits." - Sioux City Journal

April 2016

Buzz Price Thea Award Honors "An Unbelievable Life"

Keith James receives the Themed Entertainment Association’s Buzz Price Thea Award Recognizing a Lifetime of Distinguished Achievement. This award is considered one of the greatest honors in the themed entertainment industry, and JRA is the only consultant company to have two Buzz Price Thea Award recipients (Jack Rouse received the award in 2008).

Here is the video of Keith's acceptance speech. Grab a tissue, and prepare for #allthefeels.


Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History H-E-B Center

The Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History opens its new, JRA-designed H-E-B Science Center. The Center flows from micro to macro with hands-on, larger-than-life exhibits that include Chemistry, Particles, Cells, DNA, Engineering, Math, Physics, Space, Paleontology and a Planetarium.

"To have something of this level in Corpus Christi is amazing to see." - Corpus Christi Caller-Times


Permian Basin Petroleum Museum

The Permian Basin Petroleum Museum opens its $18 million renovation. Through its use of interactives, immersive environments and game-based learning experiences, the Petroleum Museum takes guests on a journey through over 250 million years of Permian Basin history and celebrates the determination and inventiveness of its people.

"Easier to navigate, interactive and heavy on science and technology while still portraying the growth of what remains America’s largest oil province over time." - Odessa American


The SPAM® Museum - A Slice of Americana

The SPAM® Museum opens in Austin, Minnesota. The 14,000-square-foot museum celebrates the 79-year history of the iconic SPAM® family of products and the 125-year history of Hormel Foods, housing a mix of galleries that showcase the iconic product’s popularity around the globe, its history with the military, and its presence today.

"The world's saltiest, most pork-forward museum" - Chicago Tribune

May 2016

George Carlin's "Stuff" Headed to National Comedy Center

Kelly Carlin, daughter of famed comedian George Carlin, announces that she will be donating “eight to ten steamer trunks” of her father’s memorabilia to create an archive at the JRA-designed National Comedy Center.

“There comes a time in one’s life when it’s time to let go of our parent’s stuff. … I am truly excited that there will be a place for my dad’s stuff — permanently.” - Variety


JRA Scholarship Supports Collective Impact of Children's Museums

For the eighth year, JRA sponsors the Association of Children's Museums Small Museum Financial Aid Program. The program offers scholarship recipients free registration to InterActivity, ACM's annual conference, and reflects JRA's desire to cultivate leaders at small museums for long-term careers in the children's museum field.

"ACM was thrilled when JRA approached us with the idea of the Small Museum Scholarship back in 2008, and we are happy that the scholarship has become one of the Association's most valued member benefits." - Laura Heurta Migus, ACM Executive Director.

June 2016

Kids Rule at the First Annual "Theme Park Wars"

Kids were the designers earlier this month, as Shawn McCoy led the Cincinanti Museum Center Summer Camp's first annual "Theme Park Wars!" Forty campers, ages 10 to 13, were split into groups of eight and tasked with 1) selecting a theme park site (lake, beach, mountain or farm), 2) choosing a guest circulation path (hub and spoke, loop or random), and 3) procuring rides, shows and attractions for their park. The catch? They had to stay within their $500M budget and achieve an hourly capacity of 20,000 visitors. At the end of the process, the groups voted on which of the theme parks was their favorite. While there could only be one winner ("Nintendo World!"), a good time was had by all.


July 2016

The National Mascot Hall of Fame to Bring Phuzzy Phun to Chicagoland

The National Mascot Hall of Fame, located in Whiting, Indiana, launches its $20 million fundraising campaign. JRA is providing complete planning, design and project management for the Hall, which celebrates sports mascots through exhibits such as the “Science of Silliness Lab and the “Phuzzical Education Department.”

"Renderings for the planned Mascot Hall of Fame are mesmerizing." - FOX Sports

October 2016

Angry Birds Flock North for the Winter

“Angry Birds Universe: The Art and Science Behind a Global Phenomenon” takes flight at the TELUS World of Science in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada for a six-month engagement. The 10,000-square-foot traveling exhibit, a collaboration between JRA, Imagine Exhibitions and Rovio, invites guests to explore the world of Angry Birds and features a variety of immersive environments and interactive media activities. The Birds previously landed in the UAE, Qatar and China.

November 2016

Shawn McCoy Talks Top Trends at IAAPA Attraction Expo Museum Day

For the sixth consecutive year, JRA Vice President, Shawn McCoy, speaks as part of Museum Day at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Expo. His session, "Emerging Trends in Immersive Design," explores some of the most incredible projects recently open in museums, zoos, aquariums, theme parks, and live entertainment venues. Shawn and Thinkwell Group's Cynthia Sharpe examine what has made each of these projects stand out in their field, what trends unite them, and what lessons museums and science center operators can take away and apply to their facilities. Emerging Trends is annually one of the highest rated and best attended sessions of the entire IAAPA Expo.

For all of the latest updates, please subscribe to this blog and check us out on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. You can also find us at one of the many conferences we'll be attending this year. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Tags: JRA Journeys , Outside the Studio , Project Spotlight

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