I was fascinated to read about Field Station: Dinosaurs, the new dinosaur-themed park due to open near Wichita Kansas. It is the second Field Station: Dinosaurs theme park to be opened by founder, Guy Gsell. The first is in Leonia, NJ (where it recently moved from Seacaucus NJ).
By Keith Thomas, Chief Executive of Petersham Group Ltd.
Why do I think the Wichita Kansas attraction will work? First, in an age where the chosen IP is normally the starting point and the lodestone throughout the development of a new attraction, this familiar, if generic, subject is immediately recognisable to its target market and has stood the test of time – there will always be families with children who want that ‘Jurassic Park’ moment, it’s just part of growing up.
I can remember myself visiting Blackgang Chine on the Isle of Wight when I was about 5 years old and the excitement of walking, at night time, through an illuminated forest full (as I remember with the benefit of 50 years distance) of amazing dinosaurs. Those memories, those experiences stay with our visitors and become the kind of things that they want to pass on to their own children.
Guests become part of Field Station: Dinosaurs
Secondly, Field Station: Dinosaurs has a real sense of place – as Guy Gsell says in a report by The Wichita Eagle: “Kansas is like the birthplace of modern paleontology, you had your Bone Wars here, your most famous discoverers were here. Palaeontology as a science should resonate with Kansas.”
That word, RESONANCE, is often a key part of an attraction’s appeal and is also often too easily overlooked. Having a sense of rightness in its location is a big part of establishing an attraction in its market place. If the location has resonance with your subject, you can get your visitors to suspend their belief. They can step away from their normal, day to day lives. They can open themselves up to the magic of the experience. In addition, I love that at Field Station: Dinosaurs it’s a genuinely active experience for the guests. They can buy their ‘Discoverers pass’ and become part of the programme.
Bangs for bucks in Wichita Kansas
Finally, a word on budgets and tickets. At $6.5 million (€5.5 million, £4.9 million) investment for a 2-3 hour experience, and tickets priced at around $15 for an adult, I’d say that the owners have hit the sweet spot in terms of bangs for bucks. Online reviews are also pretty good and back this up. Furthermore, there are projects out there spending many times this much on development. which are achieving far less in terms of delivering a great and memorable visitor experience. I would suggest that Field Station: Dinosaurs has the potential to be rolled out in locations worldwide.
So hats off to Guy Gsell and his team. I hope that the Kansas project matches the success of the New Jersey venture.
Images courtesy Field Station: Dinosaurs