Strategies to Improve Your Business: Enlivening Attractions with Lighting and Special Effects

April 7, 2011 

Consumers are looking to get more and more for their money when they visit leisure entertainment facilities. Using innovative lighting and special effects is one key way to give them what they want.

While the primary purpose of lighting is, of course, illumination, operators might also consider the idea of leveraging it to enliven their attractions. The incorporation of strips of LED lights, employed in a unique way, is an emerging trend, according to a spokesperson for Martin Professional. Roland Chapa, vice president of optoelectronic integrated solutions, TT electronics OPTEK Technology, agreed, adding that employing LED modules and strips in surface illumination to create decorative or other special effects is becoming common as well.

Innovatively designed lighting is a cornerstone of “Skyscraper! Achievement and Impact,” a new permanent exhibit at the recently renovated Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, N.J., reported Wayne LaBar, vice president, exhibition and featured experiences. Zone 1 of the multi-zone exhibit, which centers on how skyscrapers have been featured in movies, on television, and in other cultural contexts, features gallery lighting that “morphs” in cycles to recreate the day-to-night experience of a city landscape, LaBar explained. In Zone 2, which focuses on skyscraper design and planning, illusions created by lighting form backdrops for mechanical systems and reenactments of the elements, such as wind forces; in Zone 3, a replica of a construction site where visitors can don hard hats and explore the science of actual construction, it adds dimension to an I-beam above the main gallery which guests can “walk” if they wish.

Meanwhile, LED module strips and flexible LED light strips lend a different dimension to the “Changing Earth” exhibit at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pa. The exhibit includes a “Magma Crawl display”—a crawl-through fiberglass tunnel that uses a sequence of programmed LED module strips and heating elements to simulate the flow of lava through the earth. A convection flow meter and eruption indicator outside the display were created using LED light strips mounted on a flexible circuit board.

Another option to think about is laser technology, which is also being integrated into, or made the focal point of, attractions at leisure entertainment facilities. This is in line with the heightened popularity of games and rides that engage visitors to create an individual experience, “rather than the same experience as every other guest,” said Erick Mueller, vice president, sales and marketing. Funovation. Funovation continues to enhance its Laser Maze Challenge ™ game, wherein bright green lasers are projected throughout a room or area to form a maze through which players must run without breaking a “beam”. (If they do so, they get a time penalty). Music and light add to the intensity. While no two games are alike, Mueller stated, features added to further personalize the experience include Oculas ™, scanning lasers that continually sweep across the playing field.

Mueller said leisure entertainment facilities that would not ordinarily consider a laser maze are beginning to implement Laser Maze Challenge as an adjunct to their less interactive or high-tech attractions; these include Rab’s Country Lanes in Staten Island, N.Y and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, Calif.

At Sportscenter of Connecticut in Shelton, Conn., Owner Alan Phillips is taking advantage of laser technology to respond to consumer demand for “more interactive” gaming. The facility has implemented an interactive shooting gallery designed by Laser Star Amusements.  Laser Star Amusements President David Peretz said the galleries can be fabricated with simple to sophisticated animations and with or without characters; digital sound effects come standard with the galleries and are controlled with a Microsoft Windows-based computer operating control system. The system permits “attract mode” sounds and movements on the set. “When a player coins up our galleries, background music is heard and on set-animations can all be controlled with fully integrated control systems, if desired. In addition, target activated ‘mini’ shows, with movements and sounds, are available to order,” Peretz explained. He noted that players utilize laser shooting rifles to hit and activate targets within the set. When a target is hit by one of a gallery’s coded lasers, the targets “flash” and activate a relay that interfaces with any special effects, including sounds and lights as well as scent-release and water blasters.

Consistent with Phillips’ desire to “do something different and individualized” with laser technology, the entire second floor of The Rinks at Shelton, an ice skating facility within Sportscenter of Connecticut, is now home to a jungle-themed laser tag attraction. Players are “dropped off” in the middle of a dark, foggy “jungle” filled with trees and rock formations; interactive special effects in the form of animal animatronics appear at many turns.

Meanwhile, customized laser blasters and interactive special effects lend an element of personalization to Reese’s Xtreme Cup Challenge at Hersheypark in Hershey, Pa. Designed by Sally Corp., the ride features a pair of four-passenger vehicles – one branded chocolate and one branded peanut butter – simultaneously traveling through a series of competition zones that feature Reese’s-branded extreme sports events complete with targets. Equipped with the customized laser blasters, riders take aim at the targets and accumulate as many points as possible for their team. Dark lights, animated show elements, animatronic sports commentators, multi-sensory components (i.e., chocolate and peanut butter scents) and a team score update during the “Take 5 Halftime Report” complete the experience.

Industry News

Barron Games Attends Brady Distributing Company’s Spring Open House

Barron Games traveled to Wrightsville Beach, N.C., for Brady Distributing Company’s Spring Open House at the end of March. Held at the Shell Island Resort, the show had a great turnout and was a fun event for everyone, attendees and exhibitors alike.

Barron Games displayed the Orange Football Frenzy 2-Player Air Hockey table, as well as the Panda Walking Animal, which was a show favorite.  For more information about Barron Games, or any of the products from the show, visit the company online or contact your local Brady Distributor.

Barron Games’ Anna Zykina-Bacorn and Kelly McKee riding the Panda Walking Animal.

Attendees playing the Orange Football Frenzy 2-Player Air Hockey table.

Vice President of Brady, Jon W. Brady, riding Barron Games’ Panda Walking Animal.

Alison Young Joins Senior Team of The National Constitution Center as Vice President of Public Engagement

Intensifying its commitment to the development of innovative public education and outreach strategies, the National Constitution Center has hired former White House official Alison Young as Vice President of Public Engagement.  Serving as a chief adviser to President George W. Bush, Young provided expertise in civic engagement and national service.  Young will join the center’s senior management team in its mission to illuminate constitutional values and inspire acts of citizenship.

By cultivating relationships and strategic partnerships with prominent individuals, thought leaders, and organizations, Young will help position the center as the preeminent resource for discussion, debate and education about the U.S. Constitution and its contemporary relevance.  She also will oversee and expand the center’s public outreach offerings, including curriculum-based materials, special events, Web-based programs, debates and forums.

“Alison’s expertise is critical as the center prepares to launch its new five-year strategic plan,” said National Constitution Center President and CEO David Eisner.  “We know she has the strategic vision necessary to help us fulfill key objectives such as leading the nation in providing accessible, current information and opportunities to engage on constitutional issues.”

Prior to joining the center, Young was Special Assistant to the President of the United States and Acting Director of USA Freedom Corps.  She also served as White House Liaison and Director of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives for the Corporation for National and Community Service.  In these roles, Young focused on civic education, corporate responsibility, disaster response and preparedness, volunteer mobilization, youth service engagement and employee volunteerism.

Most recently, Young resided in Mexico where she worked with local organizations to build the capacity of community nonprofits and served as their ambassador to government agencies and funding organizations.

Young received a bachelor’s degree from Grove City College and a master’s degree from The George Washington University.  She was selected for Harvard University’s Executive Education Fellowship for Senior Managers in Government. 

The Maryland Zoo Selects Service Systems Associates as New Concessionaire and Retail Partner

The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, Md., has selected Denver-based Service Systems Associates (SSA) to manage the culinary and retail operations at the facility. The zoo features two concession areas, The Village Green, near the Farmyard, and the Oasis in Africa across from the Giraffe House, as well as a large retail store at the Main Gate and two smaller shops at the Jones Falls Zephyr train station and the Giraffe Feeding Station.

“We went through a rigorous process to select a new vendor, from sending out the RFP to interviews and meetings with the top candidates,” said Don Hutchinson, the zoo’s President/CEO.  “It was very important to us to find a company that not only offered good products, but also shared our commitment to providing a high quality visitor experience in every aspect of our facility. We believe we have found that partner in SSA.”

“SSA is honored to partner with The Maryland Zoo and to have the opportunity to enhance the food and beverage and retail merchandise offerings at the zoo,” said Kevin McNicholas, SSA’s President and CEO.  “We greatly respect the zoo’s longstanding commitment of excellence in guest services, and we will build on that tradition.  Guests can count on SSA for the highest level of service when they come to the zoo.”

“The guest experience is extremely important to both the zoo and SSA, and we expect that everyone will benefit from this new partnership through expanded culinary and retail options, quality offerings and significant facility upgrades,” added McNicholas. “The team that SSA has been assembling in Baltimore is already becoming integrated into our staff, and we are looking forward to sampling new food offerings as they are introduced,” continued Hutchinson.  “We were also impressed with the merchandise and style of the shops they manage at other zoos, aquariums and museums around the country and are eager to see what they do with our retail operations.”

SSA has a strong reputation in the industry for its culinary and retail expertise while delivering outstanding customer service.  The company also is a leader in environmental stewardship.   McNicholas said SSA will support the zoo’s conservation mission through “green” practices and products.

In addition to operating the culinary and retail operations, SSA will handle vending, stroller and wheelchair rentals, and picnic catering.

Maryland Zoo in Baltimore Welcomes an Addra Gazelle Calf Named Ray-Ray

The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, Md., has welcomed its newest arrival – a male addra gazelle calf born earlier this year.

The calf, named Ray-Ray for Ravens players Ray Lewis and Ray Rice, weighed 5.3 kg (11 pounds, 6 ounces) at birth, and is strong and healthy. His parents are 11-year-old Pearl and 4-year-old Makuru. As Pearl is an inexperienced mother who showed no signs of interest in her calf after his birth, the decision was made to hand-rear him.

“Because this little calf is so significant to the overall population of this endangered species, we decided that a quick intervention was necessary in order to keep him healthy,” stated Mike McClure, general curator of the zoo.  “He is being bottle-fed six times a day, but because we don’t want him to become imprinted on humans, we will be carefully raising him so it will be easier to integrate him into our herd when he is a bit older.”

The addra gazelle (Gazella ruficollis), also known as the dama gazelle, is the largest and tallest of all gazelles. Addra gazelles live in Africa’s Sahara desert region, from Mauritania to Sudan. They move seasonally from scrub land during the dry season to desert during the wet season. Addras are also fast and can reach a running speed of approximately 45 mph. “When deciding what his name should be, zoo staff thought of the Ravens,” stated Don Hutchinson, the zoo’s president and CEO.  “Ray Lewis epitomizes the strength of the gazelle and Ray Rice the speed.  Naming him Ray-Ray seemed a fitting tribute.”

The calf’s birth is the result of a recommendation from the Addra Gazelle Species Survival Plan (SSP) coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). SSPs provide breeding recommendations to maximize genetic diversity, with the goal of ensuring the long-term survival of the captive population and the health of individual animals. Currently there are approximately 130 addra gazelle in AZA accredited zoos throughout the United States. Addra gazelles are critically endangered. Poaching and overhunting, for horns and meat, have driven the species nearly to extinction in the wild.

John Bolton, CFE, Announced as IAVM’s Second Vice Chair 2011-2012

The International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM) is pleased to announce the nomination of John Bolton, CFE, for Second Vice Chair of the IAVM Board of Directors, a prestigious honor, denoting exemplary leadership and dedication to the Sport, Entertainment, and Convention/Exhibition Industry. In this role, Mr. Bolton will become a Senior Officer of the organization, a four-year term, ascending to the Chairman position in 2013-14. 

Mr. Bolton is the General Manager of the SMG Tulsa/BOK Center and Tulsa Convention Center and has served in this position since 2007. He has been in the industry since 1986 and has managed five venues in Evansville, Ind., and the RiverPark Center in Owensboro, Ky., prior to moving to Tulsa.

“John Bolton is one of the rising stars of our industry. John has demonstrated unique imagination, creativity and drive, in his professional approach to venue management. He has been a valuable and productive member of our association through a myriad of volunteer positions and assignments and is a great choice for Second Vice Chair. IAVM will benefit significantly from his energy, skill and enthusiasm” said John Christison, CFE, President and General Manager of the Washington State Convention Center, Seattle, Wash. 

A member of IAVM since 1994, Mr. Bolton has served the industry as a volunteer member in many capacities, including Chair of the Professional Development Committee, Chair of Board of Governors for IAVM’s Senior Executive Symposium at Cornell University, and has served as the local host for the 2010 Arena Management Conference in Tulsa, Okla. Currently, he is the Director for Region 6 and Chair of the Arenas Committee, and serves on the Executive Committee for the Board of Directors of IAVM. 

“I am very humbled by the honor of representing an industry I love so much. IAVM and its programs and services have played a major role in the success I have enjoyed throughout my career. Having the opportunity to give back in a leadership role like this is truly a dream come true for me,” Bolton said. 

IAVM members will vote on the nomination, and, if elected, Bolton will take office during the Annual Conference & Trade Show, VenueConnect, set for July 2011, in Phoenix, Ariz.

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