TEA News

30 January 2015

Global appetite for themed entertainment: Report from the TEA Strategic Planning Meeting 2015

Global appetite: TEA president Steve Birket
announces Thea Awards recipients
at IAAPA Orlando 2014,
to international press attention

The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) International Board of Directors headed by president Steve Birket of Birket Engineering met January 22-23, 2015 with COO Jennie Nevin, key representatives of TEA's four geographic Divisions, and TEA Committee chairs for the Association's annual Strategic Planning Meeting (SPM). The gathering was hosted in ideal accommodations: the handsome and convenient Glendale offices of Reveal Studio and the Blueist training center. TEA warmly thanks these companies for their generous hospitality.

[Report by Judith Rubin. Photos by Martin Palicki.]

TEA COO Jennie Nevin,
immediate past president Christine Kerr (BaAM),
TEA sitting president Steve Birket (Birket Engineering)

Steve Birket became TEA president in November 2014, taking over from immediate past president Christine Kerr of BaAM Productions who also attended the SPM along with other past presidents including Peter Chernack of The Chernack Group, Steve Thorburn of Thorburn Associates, Pat Gallegos of Gallegos Lighting, and TEA founder Monty Lunde of Technifex.

Birket noted the high level of enthusiasm and motivation in the room and described 2014 as a great year for the Association and for global awareness of themed entertainment. He cited examples such as the growth of the Asia Pacific Division, the achievements of the NextGen initiative, Kerr's accomplishments in her 2 years as president, the "tremendous appetite" manifested by the press for such TEA products as the TEA/AECOM Theme Index and the Thea Awards, big successes at the IAAPA trade shows in Beijing, Amsterdam and Orlando, and strong leadership overall among the Divisions and Committees and at TEA Headquarters in Burbank. "We have so many 'big rocks' in place," he said. "It's the best time ever in the TEA and I'm very happy to be here."

(Click here for a full list of TEA International Board members.)

November is when new International and Division Board members begin their terms and others cycle off.  A function of the SPM in January is to acquaint or re-

TEA NextGen chair Clara Rice (JRA)

acquaint leadership with the functioning, procedures and resources of TEA and to share institutional memory as well as to facilitate networking and sharing of ideas for growing the association and the themed entertainment community that TEA serves. Jennie Nevin, who recently rounded her first year as COO, met these goals with her overview of the state of the Association and several handouts for people to consult and keep as reference. She touched on areas where there has been a lot of focused recent activity such as sponsorship outreach, improvements to the database, financials, TEA's new website and internal marketing, future plans for the SATE conference and the upcoming TEA Summit and Thea Awards Gala celebrating 16 recipients for excellence in the attractions industry at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Calif. March 19-21. She noted that the TEA Headquarters is now fully staffed, with Jeri Kinney (member services), Tammie Richards (event producer), Linda Hamm (bookkeeper) all brought on in 2014, and Judith Rubin continuing in her consulting role as publications/PR/social media strategist and content editor.

Of the TEA Eastern N.A. Division:
Michael Blau (Adirondack Studios),
Division president Traci Klainer Polimeni (Luce Group),
Toni Losier (Electrosonic)

Growth and enthusiasm within Divisions

The TEA Eastern North America Division continues with a prolific and diverse schedule of events in numerous locations between the East Coast and the Continental Divide, garnering enthusiastic sponsor support and membership growth throughout, as reported by president Traci Klainer Polimeni of Luce Group and her fellow Division members. The TEA Western North America Division is likewise gearing up for a busy year under the new leadership of David Price, Price

Leisure Group, who has recruited several new members to his Board and empowered Tricia Rodriguez of Mad Systems and Jason McManus of Lightning in a Bottle as Western Division Board VPs.

David Aion (AES), Chris Conte (Electrosonic), 
Shirley Saldamarco (ETC Carnegie Mellon),
Ann Hathaway, Kathryn Griffiths (NBC Universal)

The TEA Europe and Middle East Division had a successful year pursuing its goal of expanding representation within more countries, and establishing the model for SATE Academy Days - educational days for the themed entertainment industry hosted at project sites around the region - which it will continue to build upon. David Willrich of DJ Willrich identified Paul Kent of Electrosonic as his successor in training for the role of EME Division president. The successes of the TEA Asia Pacific Division, which is the newest Division of the Themed Entertainment Association, include a hugely successful TEA mixer during the IAAPA Asian Attractions Expo in Beijing in June 2014,

EME Division president David Willrich (DJ Willrich)

placing TEA panels on the programs of several industry conferences within Asia, and a major regional behind-the-scenes event hosted at Chimelong Ocean Kingdom Jan 30-31. Speaking for the Asia Pacific Division was Board member Christian Aaen of Entertainment+Culture Advisors.

Committees & conferences

Grass-roots outreach continues to be the primary driver of membership growth and awareness within the

Melissa Townsend (TASC), David Price (Price Leisure Group,
Tricia Rodriguez (Mad Systems), Dale Sprague (Canyon Creative), 
Lynn Allmandinger (OASE)

international attractions community served by TEA. Membership Committee chair David Aion of Artistic Entertainment Services talked about how the Committee has expanded, is collaborating with Divisions and using a variety of tools and channels - such as TEA's LinkedIn group, and its Eventbrite interface - to aid in reaching out to potential members. Goals for 2015 include continuing to plumb those resources and to explore underserved areas including Latin/South/Central America. He displayed a chart revealing the following membership proportions

Judith Rubin (TEA) with TEA Asia Pacific Board member
Christian Aaen (Entertainment+Culture Advisors)

among TEA's Divisions: Eastern North America, 42%; Western North America, 38%; EME, 17%, and Asia Pacific 3%.

NextGen Committee chair Clara Rice of Jack Rouse Associates cited 2014 as a banner year for bringing new attractions industry members into the fold, and acknowledged the contributions of Dale Sprague, Canyon Creative (branding support), Aimee Roy, BaAM Productions (social media presence), Marissa Blake, VOA Associates and Arielle Rassel, Morris (events) and Andrew Hansen (university relations task force), Joe Fox, Birket Engineering (webinar series) and Brian Morrow of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment (event host) among others.

TEA founder Monty Lunde (Technifex)
with Greg Combs (WDI)

TEA's NextGen initiative has grown rapidly and offers a variety of ways for students and recent grads to learn about the industry and how to become professionals within it - including discounted membership in TEA, educational events, recruiting events, scholarships to TEA conferences and volunteer activities at Give Kids The World Village.

Christine Kerr introduced the newly formed Education Committee which is intended to assist in maintaining consistency across TEA conferences and

EME Division Board members
Paul Kent (Electrosonic), David Willrich (DJ Willrich)
and Klaus Sommer Paulsen (Adventurelab)

leverage opportunities for sharing content from one format to another within the Themed Entertainment Association and its various channels, events and other outlets. Kerr is established as charter head of this Committee but indicated a current effort to identify a new chair for it in the course of the year. With Ann Hathaway, Kerr is also co-chairing Day One of the TEA Summit taking place March 19-20. The Education Committee umbrella extends over TEA's SATE conference, and Kerr shared some updates: the SATE 2015 co-chairs are to be Loren Barrows of Alcorn McBride and Shirley Saldamarco of ETC Carnegie Mellon, with dates in September to be announced shortly. Paul Kent will be Technology segment chair. SATE committee members include Pat Gallegos. Discussions for a SATE in Hong Kong are also underway, with Greg Beck of SCAD in a leadership role. 

The Marketing & Communications Committee's activities in 2014 have focused primarily on creating content for and launching the new TEA website.

Marketing & Communications committee chair
Dale Sprague (Canyon Creative)

Goals for 2015 outlined by Committee chair Dale Sprague include recruiting new members with a view to broadening participation in the committee from the Divisions, to develop a TEA brand style guide and to continue to refine the website and make the best possible use of its resources.

The TEA Past Presidents Committee (PPC) meets once a month and its mission is to advise the sitting president and act as a think tank helping to incubate the future of the association. On behalf of the PPC Monty Lunde spoke of the excellent relationship between TEA and IAAPA, built over the past 20-plus years and the mutually beneficial endeavors that have resulted and will grow in future, the establishment of the TEA Distinguished Service Award in 2011, and legacy initiatives in the Board discussion pipeline such as the TEA Hall of Fame, eventual establishment of a permanent TEA archive and the vision for a more prestigious physical TEA Headquarters.

At Discovery Cube LA

In her update on TEA's PR, publications and social media, Judith Rubin noted growth across all channels, and painted a picture of TEA's rising stature and visibility to the mainstream business and travel press as well as the financial consulting sector. She credited this increased interest as being largely driven by the ever growing popularity of the TEA/AECOM Theme Index and the Thea Awards, and the explosive growth of the themed entertainment industry in Asia. TEA will continue to build upon this positioning with content creation, internet presence and press relations.

At Discovery Cube LA

Mixer at Discovery Cube, and acknowledgments

A TEA Western Division mixer at the new Discovery Cube Los Angeles on the evening of Jan 22 enabled SPM participants to mingle and network with a full house of TEA members and attendees, and enjoy the exhibits and media presentations at this new children's museum that exemplifies the integration of themed entertainment, theatrical elements, digital media, gaming technology and educational exhibits. Several TEA member companies worked on the project, including Mad Systems, ETI, Cinnabar and nWave

TEA president Steve Birket has a weather event

Pictures. Many thanks to the Western Division, the event sponsors and all those who made this excellent event possible.

Special thanks to Reveal Studio and Blueist for hosting the SPM, to Chef Rick of Catered Courses for his delicious lunches, to Martin Palicki of InPark Magazine for taking photos, and to all who took the time and made the effort to attend this meeting and participate in this important dialog within the global alliance for the making of compelling experiences and places.

TEA Eastern Division powerhouses
Traci Klainer Polimeni (Luce Group, New York)
and Joanna Del Moral (VOA Associates, Orlando)

Some participants, such as Klaus Sommer Paulsen of Adventurelab, Denmark, who sits on multiple TEA Committees as well as the EME Board, traveled a very long way. 

TEA benefits by having participation from industry operators as well as suppliers on its International Board - these currently include Kathryn Griffiths of NBC Universal, and Greg Combs of Walt Disney Imagineering, and TEA is indebted to both companies for allowing their employees to add TEA duties to their busy schedules. The Themed Entertainment Association could not survive without its dedicated volunteers on all fronts, and is fortunate to consistently inspire a very high level of involvement from its community.

See additional photos from SPM Day One, SPM Day Two and the Discovery Cube Mixer (Album 1 and Album 2) on the TEA Facebook Page.

Click here to see the SPM report from January 2014.

Posted by Judith Rubin



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