04 November 2019 // Thoughts

Fan Fare – The Three Keys to Creating Epic Sports Attractions

The Immaculate Reception. Babe Ruth’s walk-off Grand Slam. The mischievous escapades of a favorite team mascot. Few forms of entertainment evoke emotion, create loyalty, and ignite thrills like competitive sports. JRA had the great pleasure of working on three sports projects in 2019, and though each approached the subject from a different angle, they all had a common goal – put the guest at the center of the action.

So how do you create attractions that make the visitor feel like they’re at the plate, on the field, or in the mascot suit?

Louisville Slugger Museum design

Key #1: Make it Immersive

When the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory wanted to re-imagine their popular tour, they presented JRA with a unique challenge: immerse guests into the process of creating their iconic bats without disrupting factory production. The solution? Take signature elements of the production line off the factory floor and make them more accessible to the guest, while still remaining authentic to the brand’s personality, process, and people.

Louisville Slugger Museum design

The tour now begins with a new floor-to-ceiling introductory video that transports visitors into the forests and mills where every Louisville Slugger begins. As they proceed through the tour, they learn about steps in the bat-making process that have never been shown before, while enjoying bigger monitors, an enhanced sound system, stunning new graphics, and two live demonstrations. Along the way, they’ll see wood chips fly, smell maple and ash, hear working machinery, and touch samples of this legendary bat before leaving with their own souvenir mini-Slugger. By creating a multi-sensory journey with a compelling, authentic story, Louisville has knocked their renovated tour experience out of the park.

Sports Attraction Design

Key #2: Make it Competitive

When historic Kennywood amusement park and the legendary Pittsburgh Steelers football team decided to collaborate on a new themed land called “Steelers Country”, they knew they wanted the visitor to fully experience the excitement of game day.

To kick off the new zone, they needed to draft a signature attraction. The record-setting Steel Curtain rollercoaster speeds guests through 4,000 feet of steel track at 75 miles per hour while navigating nine inversions. JRA themed the coaster car with football-shaped seats, the Steelers’ iconic black and yellow stripes, and the numbers “19” and “33”, reflecting the year of the team’s first season. If fan reactions are any indication, the coaster’s first season was nothing less than a touchdown.

Sports Attraction Design

While Steel Curtain allows football fans to sit back and enjoy the ride, Steelers Experience, opening in Spring 2020, will challenge visitors to punt, pass and kick their way to Super Bowl-level glory. Through a variety of interactive experiences, guests will see how they stack up against their friends, their favorite Steelers players, or their own previous efforts. A tailgate area, restaurant and retail store will cap off this themed zone, making Steelers fans feel like it’s Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field.

Sports Attraction Design

Key #3: Make it UnFURgettable

Honoring the sports world’s cast of charismatic characters used to be an online-only activity, but JRA has given these fan favorites a FURever home at the Mascot Hall of Fame Interactive Children’s Museum (MHOF) in Whiting, Indiana. How do you create a hybrid children’s attraction/sports hall of fame that’s equal parts fun and educational? By cladding STEAM-based learning in vibrant colors, whimsical storytelling, and playful interactivity.

Sports Attraction Design

The thematic construct of the MHOF is that the visitor is attending Mascot University. Guests are welcomed via a sunlit lobby decorated with the inflatable heads of MHOF inductees. They then proceed to Fureshman Orientation, where the museum’s own mascot, Reggy Funfurhuggin, greets visitors with an introductory video of what they will see, experience, and learn. The university journey continues through the museum’s various “departments”, including the “Department of Furry Arts,” the “Science of Silliness Lab”, the “Phuzzical Education Department” and the “Department of Mascot Studies.” As they put on a mascot head, play a digital T-shirt launching game, dance in front of a green screen, or assemble a character of their own, visitors learn important lessons about history, physics, biology, and nutrition.

By infusing educational exhibits with a healthy dose of imagination, the Mascot Hall of Fame Interactive Children’s Museum succeeds in engaging both bodies and minds.

Sports Attraction Design

Celebrating the Fan in Everyone

Whether you’re young or old, athlete or spectator, Steelers supporter or Phillie Phanatic, these three projects offer experiences for every category of fan. By creating opportunities for immersion, education, and competition, thoughtfully crafted sports attractions can offer visitors a reason to play, a reason to cheer, and a reason to return.

To find out more about how these three attractions transformed lifelong fans into first-time visitors, read “Sports of All Sorts” in the latest issue of InPark Magazine.