19 December 2019 // JRA Culture

JRA’s 2019 Year in Review

What do you get when you mix fast cars, football stars and mascot mayhem? One amazing year! From opening ten new projects to speaking in exciting destinations, it’s been a banner 2019 for the JRA studio. Here’s a look at some of our most memorable moments.

JRA Design 2019

2019 got off to an adorable start with the birth of Fletcher James Hausfeld! Son of Director of Marketing & Business Development, Chloe Hausfeld, Fletch became JRA’s unofficial ambassador, delighting everyone around him at conference booths, 5K races, and holiday parties.  His arrival didn’t just bring great news to his own family – a contest among industry colleagues to guess his name, height, and weight raised over $2,500 for Give Kids the World, benefiting families of critically ill children. JRA raised a total of over $5,500 for the organization in 2019.

Fletcher Hausfeld JRA design 2019

Chloe and Fletcher Hausfeld with his donation brick and some furry friends at Give Kids the World Village.

Journeys Home

Most of our projects take us to the far reaches of the globe, so we were delighted this year to open two museums right in our backyard.

The mission of the Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center (HHC) is to ensure that the lessons of the Holocaust inspire action today. The 7,500-square-foot Center is the only Holocaust museum in the United States with an authentic connection to its physical location – Union Terminal, where more than 1,000 survivors and refugees arrived by train to rebuild their lives in Cincinnati. The museum incorporates innovative storytelling, first-person testimonials, interactive experiences, original artwork, and genuine artifacts to juxtapose “bystanders”, those who witnessed injustice and did nothing, with “upstanders”, those who risked their lives to save others.

In addition to its historical exhibits, HHC houses the Humanity Gallery, which showcases local individuals who have made positive changes in their community and beyond. The completion of the new museum is another milestone on our two-decade journey with the HHC organization, and we consider this museum to be one of the most important projects we have ever touched.

Produced by Seven/Seventy-Nine

With its storyline “A City and a Signature,” the Fifth Third Bank Museum illustrates how Fifth Third Bancorp has spent over 160 years leaving its mark on the people and places of the “Queen City”. Through interactive media, vibrant illuminated graphic murals, and a rotating selection of artifacts, the museum chronicles over 100 different Fifth Third stories, including the creation of JEANIE®, the first online shared network of ATMs. Since its opening, the Fifth Third Bank Museum has become a great source of employee pride, showcasing the ideas and innovations that have made this financial powerhouse stand the test of time.

Fifth Third Museum design 2019

Fifth Third Bank Museum. Photo credit: Bambino International

Sports of All Sorts

Farther afield, JRA was fortunate to open three projects that celebrate the emotion, thrill, and fan loyalty of competitive sports.

Honoring the sports world’s cast of creatures used to be an online-only activity, but these fan favorites have their own brick and mortar home at the Mascot Hall of Fame (MHOF) in Whiting, Indiana. This state-of-the-art family fun zone aims to draw fans closer to the teams they love, while educating families on the art and science of mascots.

Throughout the museum’s 25,000 square feet, guests will experience exhibits such as the “Department of Furry Arts”, the “Science of Silliness Lab”, and the “Phuzzical Education Department”. All of these areas are steeped in STEAM education principles and reinforce the power of creative play. Since its April opening, the Mascot Hall of Fame has delighted visitors and locals alike. It has also served as the colorful backdrop for both the 2019 MHOF Induction Ceremony and the 2020 Inductee Announcement.

Produced by Groundfire Pictures

While the Mascot Hall of Fame challenged us to bring mascots off the screen and place them center stage. Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory tasked us with another feat – renovate their factory tour to make it more immersive and inviting than ever before. In what the museum calls a “major league upgrade”, the tour now begins with a short film that transports guests to the forests and mills, where every Louisville Slugger bat is born. Stunning graphics lead visitors through the heart of the production line as well as to in-person demonstrations such as burn branding and hand-turning. By lifting parts of the process off the production floor and placing them directly in front of the guest, the new tour enables fans to smell the wood, hear the machinery, and see the artisans at work. The result? A multi-sensory visitor experience that is truly a home run.

Louisville Slugger Museum design

One of the re-imagined factory tour’s new features is the Pro Player Billet Bin, which showcases the billets destined to be turned into MLB bats. Photo credit: Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory

To cap off our “sporty summer”, Kennywood Park opened Phase 1 of its newest themed zone, Steelers Country. This one-of-a-kind land celebrates the beloved Pittsburgh Steelers football team. To have a winning team, you need a star player, and Steeler Country does not disappoint. The award-winning, record-setting, Steel Curtain rollercoaster speeds guests through 4,000 feet of steel track at 75 miles per hour, all while navigating 9 inversions! Coming in Spring 2020, the JRA-designed “Steelers Experience” will feature a variety of interactive challenges and games that fully immerse fans in the excitement of game day.

Steelers legend and sideline reporter Craig Wolfley waits with his family for a ride on Steel Curtain, a rollercoaster themed by JRA. Photo credit: Kennywood Park 

Trips to the Shore

Morey’s Piers & Beachfront Water Parks has been delighting visitors to the Jersey Shore for fifty years. To celebrate their golden anniversary, the Parks opened “Runaway Tram”, a family-friendly rollercoaster that pays homage to the boardwalk’s iconic Wildwood Sightseer Tramcar. As long-time friends of the Morey Family, JRA was delighted to custom design the ride’s train and station. Morey’s Piers earned “Park of the Year” honors at the 2019 Amusement Today Golden Ticket Awards.

Morey's Piers Runaway Tram Design

Members of the Morey Family with Floss Stingel, the voice of the Wildwood boardwalk tramcar, and John “Gigi” Gigliati, also know as “Mr. Tramcar”, Wildwood tramcar driver for more than 25 years. Photo courtesy Morey’s Piers.

Trips to the Moon

JRA continued its collaboration with South Carolina State Museum with a celebration of space travel. “Apollo 50: Journey to the Moon” charts the history of NASA’s Apollo program and South Carolina’s role in lunar exploration. The exhibit features a replica Apollo lunar module, a collection of artifacts from Charles Duke’s Apollo 16 mission, moon rocks, and a reproduction of the Saturn V rocket’s Instrument Unit, culminating in a visitor experience that is truly out of this world.

Moon exhibit JRA design 2019

“Apollo 50: Journey to the Moon”. Photo credit: South Carolina State Museum.

Innovative Experiences

The Toyota Experience Center, located in Plano, Texas, represents Toyota’s first and only comprehensive visitor attraction in North America and puts the company’s commitment to innovation into high gear. Visitors begin their journey with a look into the Customer Experience, before venturing into the “History and Heritage” and “Here and Now” galleries. They then enjoy 44,000 square feet of galleries and experiences that showcase past technical achievements as well as products currently in development. All of these areas offer employees the opportunity to witness various facets of this dynamic company, while reinforcing the notion that Toyota Motor North America cares as much about its people as it does about its products.

TOYOTA design 2019

Toyota Experience Center. Photo credit: Bambino International

“The Ones that Popped Up”

JRA’s string of 2019 project openings concluded with the FRIENDS Pop-Ups in both NYC and Boston. Produced by Superfly, Warner Bros. Consumer Products, and Warner Bros. television group, the nostalgia-packed space offers fans the opportunity to explore the show and capture photos with set re-creations, props, and costumes that have defined 25 years of everyone’s favorite FRIENDS. JRA collaborated with Superfly’s internal creative and production teams to provide planning, design, and implementation for both locations.

Friends Pop-up Experience designer

Seasons of Storytelling

From Kansas to Cannes, France, JRA team members shared their insights and stories at conferences around the world:

  • CoasterCon (Pittsburgh) – “The Making of Steelers Country” (COO Dan Schultz)
  • IAAPA Asia (Shanghai) – “Ten Attributes for Creating Memorable Attractions” (JRA VP, Shawn McCoy) and “Young Professionals Forum” (Chloe Hausfeld)
  • SINDEPAT (Sao Paolo) – “Theme Park Development Processes” (CEO, Keith James)
  • IAAPA Europe (Paris, France) – “TEA Presents: Retailtainment (Part 1) – How Technology Can Interact with the Retail Experience” (Shawn McCoy)
  • SATE US (Seattle, Washington) – “Come to Your Senses: Improving Access for Visitors with Vision or Hearing Disabilities (Director of Communications, Clara Rice)
  • Gateway User Group Conference (Cincinnati, OH) – “Ten Attributes for Creating Memorable Attractions” (Shawn McCoy)
  • International Sports Heritage Association (Wichita, Kansas) – “Lions & Tigers & Bears. Oh My! Creating America’s Most Unique Sports Hall of Fame” (Sr. Project Director, Rick O’Connell)
  • MAPIC (Cannes, France) – “Experiential Retail in 10 Easy Steps” (Shawn McCoy)
  • IAAPA Expo (Orlando, Florida) -“2019 Immersive Trends in Emerging Design – New Voices and Perspectives” (Shawn McCoy) and “Young Professionals: Welcome to the Industry Forum” (COO, Dan Schultz)
Thought Leadership 2019

JRA COO Dan Schultz (far right) shared moments from his forty-year career with young professionals at the 2019 IAAPA Expo.

Exciting New Roles

November brought the announcement that two JRA team members would be filling leadership roles in the industry’s largest associations. Chloe Hausfeld will join the IAAPA Board of Directors in 2020, one of three members representing manufacturers and suppliers. Clara Rice, JRA Director of Communications, was elected to a second three-year term on the Themed Entertainment Association’s International Board of Directors, continuing in her role as Vice President. JRA has a long history of giving back to the industry that has given us so much, and we are excited to continue our strong relationship with IAAPA and the TEA.

JRA design 2019

Chloe Hausfeld and Clara Rice. Photo credit: Bambino International

Stellar Reviews

In addition to opening ten projects in 2019, several of our projects received awards and accolades from industry and mainstream publications alike:

National Comedy Center design 2019

National Comedy Center. Photo credit: Jay Rosenblatt Photography

…and Some Extra Sizzle

To showcase the projects and people that have contributed to JRA’s 32 years of success, we created the studio’s first-ever “sizzle reel” or promotional video, which debuted at our IAAPA Expo booth. The video, produced by  Lightborne Communications, encapsulates the quote of our founder, Jack Rouse: “every hour of every day, somewhere in the world, we’re creating a smile, engaging a mind, or touching a heart.”  Have a look!

Produced by Lightborne Creative

Seeing 2020

We know we wouldn’t be able to achieve these successes without our fantastic team, as well as the colleagues, clients, and collaborators who support us year after year. We look forward to sharing even more exciting news with you in 2020. In the meantime, we wish you peace and happiness for the holiday season, and all the best for a successful new year.

Featured image and holiday photos: Bambino International