Think Outside the Rink

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STRATAMaybe it’s the bitter sub-zero weather in the northern U.S. or the 2015 NHL Winter Classic played outside last week, but we’re inspired to explore two interesting examples of performing arts in ice arenas: a unique corporate entertainment event and the Disney-on-Ice juggernaut.

Mega-Dinner Theatre. When attendees at major charity event walked into the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, for a dinner gala and concert several years ago, they were expecting to see a hockey arena. Instead, spread out before them was an elegant dinner theatre – set for 3,000 people!

Finding a space large enough to accommodate guests of the yearly event – without sacrificing the style and intimacy of a dinner gala – was a challenge for the event planner.

The solution? Hire a local event-rental firm to construct three levels of tiered platforms over the stadium-style seats, making more intimate seating than typically found in an arena. The space was completely transformed and the elegant black-and-white décor offered a simple, classic look.

To effect this drastic change, the event-rental firm installed 24,000 square feet of STRATA Event Staging, arranging it in a horseshoe shape around the stage. The tier heights measured 11′, 11′ and 10′ high. Floor seating accommodated 900 additional VIPs. The platforms’ ease of use enabled it to be set up in just 72 hours and taken down in 24 hours; this is half the time needed to install and remove a traditional scaffolding system.

The event earned rave reviews from the guests, organizer and Xcel staff. Mark Zirbel, director of event operations with Xcel at the time, praised the STRATA’s versatility and strength, enabling event planners to “think outside the box.”

‘Frozen’ is Hot. According to a Wall Street Journal article in November, the family-friendly ice show “Disney on Ice Presents Frozen” commands higher ticket prices than 60 percent of the 10 NHL teams playing in the same arenas where “Frozen” is also performed. For example, tickets in New Jersey were 34% higher to see Elsa sing Let it Go in her blue costume dress — $92 average on the secondary market – than to watch future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr let slap shots fly in his Devils sweater and breezers.

To capitalize on public interest, this “Frozen” spectacle was produced by Feld Entertainment in just 9 months – half the usual timetable – and has already sold more than 2 million tickets. Managed by three sisters in their 30s, Feld was profiled in Bloomberg Businessweek last month. This third-generation live entertainment company tallies $1 billion in annual revenue and employs 3,000 people.

Along with the successful Disney on Ice series launched in 1981 – for which Disney earns 10 percent of ticket and concession sales – Feld Entertainment’s other performing arts in ice arenas include Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and Marvel Universe Live! Across all venue types, Feld boasts 30 million people entertained annually, with a geographic reach spanning 75 countries on six continents.

Whether it’s dinner theatre on a grand scale, or a Disney-themed extravaganza for screaming children, the right equipment and creativity can help ice arenas “think outside the rink” and flex their muscle in the performing arts.

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