Industry Leaders Gather in St. Louis for the Grand Hall Experience

January 20, 2016

Last week, over 115 industry leaders from around the country gathered for the Themed Entertainment Association's Grand Hall Experience Mixer at St. Louis Union Station. JRA was a proud sponsor of the event and enjoyed introducing TEA members to this award-winning project.

Grand Hall Mixer Sponsors - Back row from left: Dan Moalli of Technomedia, Shawn McCoy of JRA, Larry Howard of CHRISTIE, Steve Birket (President of the TEA), Steve O'Loughlin of Lodging Hospitality Management, and Al Cross of PGAV Destinations. Front row from left: Heather Brinkley-Lodispoto of Technomedia, Tammie Richards (TEA Event Coordinator), and Jennie Nevin (TEA COO). Photo courtesy Martin Palicki for TEA.

On the day it opened in 1894, Union Station was the largest and busiest train station in the world, and it required a train shed with the largest roof span in the world to accommodate its 42 tracks, which served 100,000 passengers per day. Union Station’s Grand Hall, with its vaulted ceiling, would embrace millions of personal stories, from the revelry of visitors celebrating St. Louis’ 1904 World’s Fair to the reunion of soldiers with their families after World War II.  But with the aviation industry literally taking flight in the 1950s and 60s, and despite its designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1970, Union Station and its Grand Hall began to fall into disrepair and neglect. In 2012, Lodging Hospitality Management (LHM) purchased the property and were tasked with finding unique ways to drive visitation to Union Station’s new hotel, dining, and shopping options while still maintaining the Grand Hall’s historic character.

The solution to this challenge became a first-of-its kind projection mapping experience. Projected on the Grand Hall’s 65-foot tall ceilings and across the entire space, this 3D experience is comprised of 30 vignettes, all stretching the barrier of creative design, innovation and historical storytelling. Visitors can take in the remarkable animation in vivid color with music and narration of historical portions provided by television and film personalities closely connected to St. Louis, including John Goodman, Jon Hamm, Bob Costas. Because the show differs slightly with every hourly evening performance, visitors have reason to experience this kaleidoscope of images again and again.

JRA provided concept and scripting for Union Station’s Grand Hall Experience, with media produced by Technomedia. The multimedia attraction received the TEA's 2015 Thea Award and the 2014 IAAPA Brass Ring Award.

Attendees of the TEA Grand Hall Mixer had the opportunity to mix and mingle with the Association's International and Divisional Board Members, who were in town for the annual TEA Strategic Planning Meeting. They were also treated to appetizers, beverages, special presentations of the Grand Hall Experience Show vignettes, and a presentation from Stephen O'Loughlin of LHMC, Shawn McCoy of JRA and Nathaniel of Technomedia.

Couldn't make it to the event? Here's a look at how the Grand Hall Experience was created, as well as some excerpts from the show.

Many thanks to the TEA, the event sponsors, and Leisure Hospitality Management for hosting a wonderful networking event. Check back next week for an opening announcement that is truly out of this world...

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

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From the Artic Tundra to the Vastness of Space: A Look at JRA in 2016

January 06, 2016

Welcome back to the JRA blog, and Happy New Year! We've rested and re-charged, and now we're ready to get to work, visiting new places, and opening more projects in 2016. Here's a look at what's ahead for JRA:

January 2016
As we mentioned in our exclusive video sneak peek, Space Center Houston will open its Independence Plaza exhibit later this month. Visitors will be able to enter an original shuttle carrier aircraft - one of the only two that ever existed - and walk where heroes walked, touch what heroes touched and experience the groundbreaking era of space exploration through educational exhibits. JRA has provided master planning, design and project management for this “out of this world” attraction.

February 2016
Another Texas opening! The Permian Basin Petroleum Museum will complete its $18 million renovation in mid-February. The museum shares the petroleum and energy story and its impact on daily life through educational programs, interactive exhibits, an archival center and its Petroleum Hall of Fame. JRA has provided overall planning, design, project management, executive media production and art direction for the renovation.


February 2016
JRA CEO Keith James will provide the keynote address at the Themed Entertainment Association's "SATE Academy Day: Designing for Extremes" in "the home of Santa Claus" (aka Rovaniemi, Finland).

Spring 2016
LaunchPad Children's Museum (formerly Children's Museum of Siouxland) opens in Sioux City, Iowa.  The museum’s 8,000 square feet of exhibits will teach children ages 6-10 basic STEAM principles through hands-on play on subjects such as agriculture, renewable energy and consumer science.

Spring 2016
The Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History opens its new JRA-designed Children’s Science Center. The new Center will feature interactive periodic tables, a physics and engineering area, a planetarium and a three-story DNA strand climber.

April 2016
JRA CEO Keith James will receive the Themed Entertainment Association's Buzz Price Award for a Lifetime of Distinguished Achievements. The award, considered the "Lifetime Achivement Oscar" of the industry, will be presented to James at the Thea Awards Gala at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, California on Saturday, April 2nd.

Keith James (center) with TEA President Steve Birket and TEA CEO Jennie Nevin at the Thea Awards Announcement.

May 2016
Visit us at the 2016 Association of Children’s Museums Interactivity Conference May 4-7! The conference, themed “Collective Impact,” will be hosted by the Stepping Stones Museum for Children in Norwalk, Connecticut.

May 2016
Later in May, you can also find us at the annual American Alliance of Museums Annual Meeting and MuseumExpo in Washington, DC.

June 2016
The 2016 JRA Conference World Tour continues at the 2016 IAAPA Asian Attractions Expo in Shanghai, China June 13-16. Themed “Creating Opportunity Through Innovation,” the 2016 Expo will welcome more than 7,000 attractions industry professionals, including over 300 exhibiting companies.

September 2016
Enjoy the fall Florida weather! Visit us at the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) Conference, hosted by Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry.


October 2016
Bienvenido a Barcelona!  The 2016 IAAPA European Attractions Expo offers some Spanish flare October 5-7. Come say “buenos dias” to JRA at our booth.

November 2016

For the sixth consecutive year, JRA VP of Marketing and Business Development, Shawn McCoy, will speak 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.

Late 2016
 “The King Abdullah Memorial Initiative” exhibit begins its national tour. This project highlights the life and legacy of the late King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, It also showcases his efforts toward improving educational opportunities for Saudi youth and developing the technological infrastructure of the country, as well as his desire to conserve the natural environment of the Arabian Peninsula.


To get all of the latest updates on these and other projects and events, subscribe to this blog, and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. We look forward to working with you in 2016!


Tags: JRA Journeys , Outside the Studio

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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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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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Emerging Trends in Immersive Design, or the Day a Girl Turned Into A Gorilla

November 18, 2015

JRA VP of Marketing and Business Development, Shawn McCoy, co-presents

JRA VP of Marketing and Business Development, Shawn McCoy, co-presents "Emerging Trends in Immersive Design" at the 2015 IAAPA Attractions Expo.

As we previewed in last week's blog post, this week our own Shawn McCoy, along with Thinkwell Design's Cynthia Sharpe, took a capacity crowd on a whirlwind tour of the world's blockbuster experiences in their 2015 IAAPA Expo presentation, "Emerging Trends in Immersive Design." According to Shawn, a successful attraction's key ingredients are:

  1. Boldness
  2. An Interesting Story
  3. Personalization
  4. Immersiveness
  5. ...and a Touch of Magic.

Throughout his presentation, Shawn traveled from the Guggenheim in New York to the battlefields of Bannockburn to the Mogao Caves of China's Gobi Desert, breaking down the technologies and techiniques of truly memorable experiences.

If you weren't able to travel to the IAAPA Expo to see the session in person, below is a Slideshare version with a complete transcript. Hopefully it will provide you with some tips, tricks and inspiration for your next attraction project. If you are at IAAPA this week, be sure to visit us at booth 1353, and stay tuned for some more exciting news from JRA tomorrow!


Tags: Blog N Learn , JRA Journeys , JRA Team , Outside the Studio

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