Tuesday, July 23, 2024

TEA SATE is going to Kansas City!

SATE is the experience design conference series created by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). In 2023, the annual North American SATE takes place in Kansas City, Missouri, Oct 11-14, (Wed-Sat) hosted at Union Station Kansas City. The SATE acronym stands for Story + Architecture + Technology = Experience.

The conference theme is “Origins and Influencers – the people, places, and ideas that shaped an industry.” As is customary, the TEA Masters presentation will also be part of the program. Every year, TEA selects several individuals to be honored as “masters of their craft,” shedding light on the many, many disciplines that come together to realize projects within the industry.

Registration is open, with earlybird rates through August 31. TEA has reserved a block of rooms at The Westin Kansas City at Crown Center. TEA welcomes inquiries about sponsorship. Visit www.teaconnect.org for more information.

InPark editor Judith Rubin posed some questions to the SATE co-chairs, Shannon Martin of Color Reflections Las Vegas, Gregory Senner of Scenario and Garrick Hansen of EXP. Shannon is a Vice President on the TEA International Board of Directors, and has co-chaired SATE twice before: Las Vegas 2022 and Seattle 2019. Gregory is President of the TEA Eastern North America Division, and co-chaired with Shannon in 2022. Garrick also sits on the TEA International Board; this is his first time as a SATE co-chair.

Why Kansas City?

Greg: Kansas City holds many little-known origin stories to our industry. Although it is widely known that 2023 is the celebration of Disney 100, many do not know that a century ago, in August 1923, Walt Disney closed his first animation company in KC (Laugh-O-Gram Studio) to move to Los Angeles. 

Kansas City has a great legacy of entertainment and boasts a fantastic arts and culture scene. It is also considered the location of the first RD&E development (Retail, Dining & Entertainment; Country Club Plaza).

Tell us about the host venue and how you’re making the most of the setting.

Garrick: Union Station Kansas City opened as a major transportation hub in 1914. In 1917 it peaked at nearly 80 thousand trains traveling though it for young soldiers leaving the Midwest for WWI, later inspiring the location of the nearby National WWI Memorial and Museum. In 1945, 678,000 travelers passed through the station – a new record. By 1973, it was down to six trains a day and 32,000 annual passengers.

In 1996, voters approved a tax to restore the historic building, and, in November 1999, Union Station Kansas City reopened as a mixed-use venue with shops, restaurants, theaters, exhibit spaces and Science City while continuing to serve rail passengers with four trains a day. Today, it is one of the best such facilities in the US and hosts a wide variety of special events, large and small – from  the NFL Draft to TEA Explores (2018).

Greg: Picking a venue for an event like SATE requires a lot of consideration. In the case of SATE KC, it came down to a venue that embodies the heritage of the city, and the cornerstones of what SATE is, Storytelling, Architecture, Technology and Experience. Union Station Kansas City is a venue that celebrates all of these.  

The SATE experience usually includes a taste of local attractions. What have you got planned for this year?

Shannon: We may yet have other surprises, but these are the extras we can confirm as of now: Wednesday afternoon (Oct 11) will include a hard hat tour of the restoration of Walt Disney’s first company, Laugh-O-Gram Studio. This restoration is made possible by the nonprofit organization, Thank You Walt Disney, based locally in KCMO. Thursday night (Oct 12) includes optional attendance to an NFL game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos. Friday night (Oct 13) Cedar Fair has generously sponsored a private event at their local KC park, Worlds of Fun. The park is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and the return of one their most iconic rides, The Zambezi Zinger.

Garrick: All the activities outside the core conference are designed to not only deliver an experience to the individual, but also offer a chance to share that experience with the other participants. We hope that people take full advantage of the offerings – including and beyond the traditional welcome reception, which will be amazing at the historic Union Station. The hard hat tour of Walt Disney’s first animation studio will be powerful and should spark conversation well past the conference itself. Attending a nationally broadcast NFL game helps expand our conversations to include the “fan experience.” Our evening at Worlds of Fun will be VIP the whole way and is slated to be the perfect reward for those staying through Friday night.

Tell us about your collaboration as co-chairs.

Shannon: The three of us are about as close friends as can be, and I believe the chemistry shows. SATE is a lot of work and being in a team that can be this mutually supportive and still feel comfortable to challenge one another really promotes the very best in what we do. I love working with these two!

As the resident expert on SATE, I lead the effort to guide the process and coordinate logistics with TEA staff.

Greg: In my second time working on the event, I have taken on a lot of the planning and coordination with the venues, sponsors and local offerings. As a native of KC, I have the local knowledge and the passion for the city.

Garrick: I am leading the team’s effort to develop and expand the Saturday student agenda, following in the footsteps of past SATEs. We have been involved in a lot of great conversations with students, industry professionals , and professionals outside of our industry, on what can be done to better guide people just starting out or making lateral moves within our community.

Shannon does an amazing job of not only holding up her end of the work, but also putting up with – I mean coaching – Greg and me through the process. Greg and I, on the other hand, have a lot of experience working together on projects both inside and outside the industry. The two of us had been talking about producing SATE North America for some time and have been heavily involved in TEA Eastern North America events for a number of years, always working towards that goal. Greg joined the team last year, and I was excited to jump at the opportunity to help this year. 

We all come from very different corners of the industry, but at the end of the day we have a shared passion for the TEA and are willing to put the hours in to make SATE successful.

What keeps people coming back to SATE, year after year?

Garrick: To me, SATE has always felt inspiring and full of possibilities. The program is open, the schedule flexible, the location is always different. If there is something new and exciting you want to share with our community this is the best platform to make that happen. Kansas City is an undervalued gem, a location often overlooked by our community despite its foundation in establishing the industry we enjoy today. No two SATEs are ever the same and we can’t wait to show you what makes this SATE unique.  

Greg: There has never been a better year or venue to celebrate the cornerstones of SATE in combination with the past, present, and future of the industry. We have an unmatched slate of content and activities that will have SATE 2023 setting the bar for years to come. 

Shannon: I’ve always said to anyone I talk to about these types of events or the TEA in general, you get out of it what you put in! One of the great things about SATE is you can learn what’s of interest to those you do business with. You can further those discussions and gain insight on major industry topics. This is your chance to get inspired and motivated. And of course, my favorite – Networking! Networking! Networking! Don’t forget those business cards! Finally, don’t forget to follow up with people you have met after SATE.

Don’t forget to use these hash tags: #SATENorthAmerica #SATENA2023 #ThemedEntertainmentAssociation. There is also a great social media tool kit available at teaconnect.org for all our attendees, sponsors, and speakers.

Judith Rubin
Judith Rubin
Judith Rubin ([email protected]) is a leading journalist, content marketing specialist and connector in the international attractions industry. She reports on design and technical design, production and project management, industry trends and company culture. From 2005-2020 she ran communications and publications for the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). In 2013, she was honored with the TEA Service Award. She was development director of IMERSA and publicist for the Large Format Cinema Association, and has contributed to the publications of PLASA, IAAPA and the International Planetarium Society. Judith joined World’s Fair magazine in 1987, which introduced her to the attractions industry. She joined InPark in 2010. Judith earned a BFA from Pratt Institute. She has lived in Detroit, New York, Oakland, and now Saint Louis, where she is active in the local arts community.

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