28 July 2011 // Thoughts

16 Stages of Project Development: The Great Unveiling

You’ve gotten your permits. You’ve been shown the money. You’ve hired JRA (good move ☺). You’ve seen your project master planned, conceptualized, elevated, sectioned, rendered, prototyped, fabricated and installed. Today’s the day – it’s time for the world to see your project…

…almost.

In our last 16 Stages of Project Development segment, we’ll make sure every last ‘i’ is dotted and ‘t’ crossed, that your staff is trained, and that you know how to maintain and operate your new facility before we cut the ribbon and welcome your guests.

Stage 14, Pre- or “Soft” Opening, is the opportunity to give your project a ‘test drive’ before Opening Day. It is at this stage that your operating team and systems are integrated with the facility, the staff and all of its attractions. JRA’s producers and art directors – along with the fabricators and media professionals – work side-by-side with your facility’s management, operations and maintenance staff, and you’ve hosted personnel training programs to prepare the staff for opening. Once you have determined that your operations team is ready, you’ll want to invite friends and family to test out the attractions, rides and/or interactives. Items that need last minute attention are identified, placed on the punch list, and addressed. Once these issues have been rectified, there is often a VIP or press sneak peak to generate buzz for the public grand opening.

“All the work we do in the final stages of the project supports the idea of it coming to life with the addition of the guest,” says JRA Art Director, David Ferguson. “Whether we are finishing a detail that is still incomplete or correcting something we thought would work but didn’t in the testing of the idea, the last moments before we open a project are the most anxious.”

So here we are – Stage 15. Congratulations! You’ve opened the doors to the general public for the first time, and all of the work from the last 24-36 months has finally come to fruition. “To see the guest immersed in the attraction and actually enjoying themselves is the ultimate payoff,” says Ferguson. “That is why we do it. We don’t think about how much work it took because it was all worth it.” Adjustments continue to be made based on audience reaction, but all in all, the journey has finally come to a (hopefully) glorious end.

…Or has it?

As you may have noticed, there is still one stage missing. It’s a year (or several) after opening. Guests love your new park, attraction, or museum – so much so that you have maxed out your capacity, or you want to add some new elements to keep them coming back for more. You guessed it – it’s time for Stage 16 – EXPANSION! As with any product that is designed and produced for public consumption, operating the experience with paying guests will assist you in planning expansion for future years. And when you go through the 16 Stages again this time, you’ll already now the players, steps and processes to make your expansion a success.