InPark checks in with industry leaders who are heading back home
interviews by Martin Palicki
Back to the States
After 17 years in various roles with IAAPA, Karen Staley recently joined Triotech as the company’s VP of Sales USA. Based in Canada, Triotech got their start in the industry creating small-scale motion simulators for FECs. The company has grown exponentially and now provides a wide range of media and simulator attractions, including dark rides and VR experiences.
Why was now the right time for a change?
I very much enjoyed my position in IAAPA. However, after living in Europe for a long time, I needed to return home to the Washington, DC area. I wanted very much to stay in the industry and Triotech was a terrific opportunity to do both.
What are you most proud of in your time at IAAPA?
There are many things. I am so glad to have developed a relationship with the amusement park and attractions community and to work for such wonderfully kind and dedicated industry leaders.
I am truly thankful to IAAPA for allowing me the opportunity to set up the EMEA office, which in turn facilitated my relationship with the industry, provided me with a much deeper appreciation of the industry and nourished a lifelong love of the industry.
Having had a window into global markets in your career, what drew you to Triotech?
Triotech is a highly entrepreneurial and innovative/ creative company, with a strong and positive reputation in the industry for not only providing a large variety of creative guest experience products but also for being a very customer-oriented company. This combination of creativity and service drew me in.
The industry is changing very rapidly, offering guests more diversity in their experiences. Triotech is well positioned to provide a variety of products that are a mix of creative multi-media and traditional rides that can deliver a unique blend of emotional and immersive experiences.
What will you be focusing on and working to achieve at Triotech?
I will be focusing on sales in the USA and Mexico. My goal is to eventually set up a US office to service the many loyal and dedicated US customers of Triotech.
How can people best get in touch with you?
I am working on the East Coast for now…I can be reached by email:[email protected] or by phone at 240.446.2951. My goal for 2019 is spend as much time in parks and attractions throughout the USA and Mexico. •
Back to his first design firm
Bruce D. Robinson (BDR) Design Group, now in its 35th year of business, is an international design-consulting firm based in Cincinnati, OH, that has built its success on planning and designing immersive themed leisure and entertainment venues for clients all over the world. Jeff Lichtenberg started his design career at BDR in the late 1980s. He later joined JRA, also in Cincinnati. After 25 years with JRA, he’s back with BDR as senior designer/project director.
Tell us about your journey from BDR to JRA, and back to BDR.
There is no short answer to this one. In 1987 I was a young graduate from the Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) trying to find my place in the design world. While interviewing around town it was suggested I give Bruce Robinson a call. I remember my first meeting with Bruce like it was yesterday. There were amazing renderings on the walls and a sense of creativity in the studio space. While waiting to meet Bruce I flipped through a stack of his project books that made me think: this looks like something I would really like to get into. I caught the bug that day.
After 5 ½ years with BDR and curious about what my future held, I was introduced to Keith James by Jack Rouse [Rouse has since retired and James is now president of JRA]. At the time, Jack and Keith were merging with Wyatt Design to create Rouse Wyatt Associates [Wyatt is once again independent]. The timing and opportunity felt right. I can’t begin to list all of the great projects and clients that I had the opportunity to work with at RWA and later JRA. I can honestly say that time flies when you’re having fun. It is hard to believe that 25 years went by. I also met the love of my life, Sheila, while working at JRA.
So as to my motivation for returning to BDR, it just felt like time for a change. Bruce and I had remained friends over the years, his office is in Cincinnati and he has built a strong, talented and focused design team. It is a good place for me, a place where I can continue to do what I love.
How has your design perspective shifted or evolved through your career?
While in school at CIA, I learned the fundamentals of good design. Then, I just jumped in and went for it. During my early years at BDR, I grew in many ways. I learned to listen to clients’ needs and how to work with various design team members. I learned how to pull together relevant image references and how to use my drawing abilities to express various ideas derived from other’s input. My perspective on design has always been based on the thought that each design task, no matter what, is a challenge to be solved. To find the solution is a matter of learning the variables, envisioning possibilities and working to put the pieces together. The more artfully the pieces are put together, the better the design.
My perspective once focused only on design; but I have learned the importance of quality feasibility studies and a good business plan. When designers understand the data provided within these two parameters up front, they can use their skills and experience to develop solutions that not only look good and provide a satisfying guest experience, but also function effectively to satisfy the owners, investors and operators.
Tell us more about your new role and responsibilities at BDR.
Bruce has said that I am the link that completes the design team. The team is a small but inspired creative group with a high level of client focus, and a long list of successful clients and projects. It is a diversely skilled staff that includes architects, industrial designers, interior designers, set designers, and illustrators that have a wide variety of experience in the entertainment design industry. Rebranded and relocated, the studio is still a place that exudes a sense of fun and creativity. It is a place where I have hit the ground running…again incorporating what I’ve learned over the years.
Who or what in the design world inspires you?
I love seeing smiling, happy faces on people visiting or engaged in a project that I have been involved with. Seeing exceptional projects such as The Wizarding World of Harry Potter or Avatar at Animal Kingdom inspire me. I’m constantly looking at the world around me with a critical eye that designer-types tend to have. I look at old and new, often photographing or sketching things that please or inspire me with the thought that some day these things will influence something that I am working on. Then there is the internet – an unbelievable source of information that did not exist when I started in this business. So much to see, so much to learn…
Perhaps my favorite inspiration comes from a pint or three of Guinness at Arnold’s Bar in downtown Cincinnati.
What are some favorite projects you’ve worked on?
Ohhh that’s a tough one! Okay here are the first two: (ask me tomorrow and it might be two other projects)
#1 – Worlds of Adventure Theme Park (pictured top of page). This was a project that I played a key role on developing the master plan and overall conceptual design while at JRA in conjunction with Les Hudson at Six Flags. The park was to be located in Calabar, Nigeria. Unfortunately this project never came to fruition.
# 2 – Jenkinson’s Fun House. This was a relatively small project compared to some that I have worked on, but it had a real impact on me. It is a re-envisioned, traditional walk-thru funhouse built in a great location on Jenkinson’s Boardwalk in Point Pleasant, NJ. Designed in 1997 and debuting in the spring season of 1998, this project was a hit the minute the doors opened and remains a popular boardwalk icon to this day.
What are some important things for developers/ owners to consider or understand before engaging with a design team?
A) Look at firms with a record of delivering successful projects that meet or exceed their client’s expectations.
B) Know the firm’s true abilities to hire a firm that delivers the appropriate level of design required to complete an attractive, operationally functional and financially successful project.
C) There must be a chemistry of comfort and confidence between owners and developers and the creative design firm. These are relationships that involve money, time and passion. When the collaboration works well, great projects are made and relationships last a long time. • • •