A Tale of Two Projects

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There are many hours, plans, and ideas that go into the making of any Thinkwell project. This past November, Thinkwell had not one, but TWO major projects open on the same day!

NFL Experience in Times Square and the Wahat Al Karama Memorial Visitor Center in Abu Dhabi both opened to the public on November 30, 2017. Both are vastly different from each other, so we wanted to use this post as a quick comparison of the two.

“Suit Up” interactive experience at the NFL Experience in Times Square

Located in New York City’s Times Square, NFL Experience is a high-tech attraction that lets visitors immerse themselves in America’s favorite sport. In partnership with the NFL and Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group, Thinkwell provided a wide range of creative, design, and production services to bring the NFL Experience to life.

Reflection Pool at the Wahat Al Karama Memorial Visitor Center in Abu Dhabi

The Wahat Al Karama Memorial is comprised of 31 massive aluminum-clad, inscribed tablets that support each other and symbolize the unity, solidarity, and mutual values of the nation, its military and civil servicemen, and its fallen heroes. The new Visitor Center experience offers guests from around the world an opportunity to further explore the monument’s message of service and support.
We asked Kate McConnell, Senior Creative Director, and Chris Durmick, Principal, Attractions & Museums, to compare and contrast the two projects, as they led the creative development for each of the respective projects.
“Creating the content for the visitor center at Wahat Al Karama provided a unique opportunity for us to really engage with a story that spans both the national level and the very, very personal,” says McConnell. “We wanted to honor those who had given their lives, while opening up their stories and the national values they embodied to a broad, international audience.”
The visitor center at Wahat Al Karama needed to be engaging and interactive for tourists and schoolchildren, but it also needed to reflect the profound respect and honor that is appropriate for the families of the fallen and heads of state who would be visiting. There is also a cultural difference between the US and the UAE in the mood and attitude toward the deaths of these heroes, with pride in their service and a celebration of their courage coming ahead of a sense of mourning, and the design needed to embody that.
“At first glance, the NFL Experience in Times Square couldn’t be more different than the visitor experience at Wahat Al Karama in Abu Dhabi however, a key objective of this project was to examine a national phenomenon with a uniquely first-person approach,” says Durmick. “In this case, while we knew that many of our visitors would have a passing knowledge of the National Football League, we also had to accommodate an international audience with little or no understanding of the basic rules of the game. The NFL project delivers on several key guest expectations (throwing a football being the first among them) but for this location, the NFL wanted to deliver a show that was unique from all of the other football-related activities they have developed. The Times Square location places the visitor into the shoes of the professional player, and shifts the focus of the NFL away from team affiliation to a more player-centric story, one that specifically showcases teamwork, dedication, and commitment to a single purpose.
“This narrative throughline allowed us to create engaging interactives like vertical jumps, blocking drills, and even on-field practice that intuitively encourages the visitor to improve their skills, to compare their results to actual players, and of course, to have fun. The ultimate goal, however, is for the visitors to have a new appreciation for the players, the coaches, and the amount of work it takes to succeed at the highest level of the sport.”
“We sink ourselves into our projects. It was a humbling honor to be entrusted with the stories of the UAE’s heroes. The NFL project was some serious fan dream-come-true wish fulfillment,” says Cynthia Sharpe, Principal of Cultural Attractions & Research. “We were so very fortunate work on both, even with the stress of each opening on the same day. Ultimately, these seemingly disparate projects embody what Thinkwell is all about: meaningfully connecting people with stories, transforming them through these experiences. ”
Thinkwell is proud of its accomplishment in opening these two projects on the same day, and KUDOS to our teams and vendors that made these projects a reality!

To learn more on the either of these projects, please visit links below for additional details:

Wahat Al Karama Visitor Center

NFL Experience