A Tale of Two Projects

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


Cirque du Soleil, NFL Team Up For Massive Times Square Attraction

Cirque du Soleil and the NFL are planting a flag in Times Square, constructing a four-story, 40,000 square-foot interactive exhibit, “NFL Times Square,” that aims to attract 25,000 people a week.

Following the recent opening of Broadway production “Paramour,” the exhibit marks the latest ambitious move by Cirque to establish a foothold in the bustling New York City entertainment market, as well as the latest attempt to diversify the company’s offerings beyond the big-top and Vegas spectacles with which Cirque is most closely associated. For the NFL, the Times Square exhibit will serve as a permanent outpost of the interactive installations that pop up with the Super Bowl every year, and aim to stoke fan enthusiasm as well as offer a family-friendly opportunity to win over new fans.

There will be no live performance elements in “NFL Times Square,” with the experience focusing instead on a 15 to 20 minute, immersive multimedia show presented in a 350-seat theater. The complex’s four floors will also encompass high-tech exhibit and interactive spaces, as well as a retail area, a stadium-themed food and beverage cafe and a stepped seating area looking out onto Times Square.
The price point for a ticket will likely ring in somewhere in the $30 range, according to Scott Zeiger, the president of Cirque du Soleil Theatrical. The whole experience will last about an hour.

Judging from conceptual renderings (above), “NFL Times Square” will benefit from a highly visible spot in one of the world’s busiest intersections. The new building, current under construction, is located on the corner of Seventh Avenue and West 47th Street, across 47th Street from Broadway’s Palace Theater and caddy-corner from Duffy Square, the public area where the TKTS booth and its big red stairs are located.

Collaborating on the design of the space are Rockwell Group — the architecture firm whose chief David Rockwell just won a Tony Award for his set design for “She Loves Me” — and Thinkwell Group, the company that created exhibitions for “Hunger Games” and for the making of Harry Potter at London’s Leavesden Studios. Real estate firm Witkoff Group will also work closely with Cirque in the development of the space.

“NFL Times Square” begins development in November of this year, ahead of a targeted November 2017 opening.

‘Dark rides’ may be part of NFL Experience at HOF Village

Thinkwell Group, which bills itself as “the experience company,” would spearhead the development of amusement rides at the Village.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s NFL Experience could have attractions designed by a production company that has worked with Cirque du Soleil and Universal Orlando Resort. California-based Thinkwell Group — known for its work in designing theme parks, resorts and museums around the world — has signed on as a master plan partner. Thinkwell Group, which bills itself as “the experience company,” would spearhead the development of amusement rides at the Village, Hall of Fame president and executive director David Baker said.

Presenters during a news conference about plans for the village showed a video they said was an example of what could land on the campus as part of the Hall of Fame NFL Experience. The new building will be an indoor and outdoor activity center housing attractions similar to those that move around the country with the Super Bowl annually.

In the video clip, a boy wearing a football helmet sat in a roller coaster seat hooked to an overhead track. As the ride moved him forward and backward, he was propelled into a virtual reality where he was on a football field, running the ball and nearly getting pummeled by other players. Baker noted the video was a commercial that was several years old.

With news of the Hall of Fame Village project, there’s been talk of dark rides — enclosed attractions that take visitors on vehicles through a series of scenes filled with animatronic characters and audio tracks, such as the “it’s a small world” or “Haunted Mansion” rides at Walt Disney World. Other popular dark rides mix roller coasters or interactive components with more traditional dark ride elements, with examples including “Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts” at Universal Studios Florida and “Toy Story Mania!” at Walt Disney World.

When contacted by The Repository, representatives for Thinkwell Group declined to release any information about the company’s involvement in the Hall of Fame Village project and directed inquiries instead to Legends, a company that provides expertise in planning, sales and hospitality, and has worked with the NFL and a host of professional sports teams.
Legends did not return requests for comments.

Thinkwell Group also lists Nickelodeon, Paramount and Warner Bros. Studios as clients and was tapped last year to head the creation of a traveling exhibit for “The Hunger Games” that launches this summer.
Read the source article here.