Headquartered at 6th and Vine in downtown Cincinnati, Jack Rouse Associates, or JRA, may be one of the city’s best-kept secrets. More likely, it’s simply a matter of the general population not knowing the magnitude of the company’s reach. Whatever the case, the Wall Street Journal is well aware of their work, naming JRA “one of the world’s more prominent design firms.”

A quick once-over of the project list found on JRA’s website supports this exceptional nod of acknowledgement. In fact, don’t be surprised if that once-over changes to full entanglement and rapt attention. The list is astounding in the scope of project types, quality, and sheer quantity.

There you would also find that the mission of JRA is “to conceive, visualize and realize unique audience experiences around the globe.” That statement translates to the design and creation of some of the world’s most incredible theme parks, exhibits, and attractions.

Close to home, JRA has achieved the goal of providing both meaningful and entertaining experiences for those visiting the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum, as well as many other spots in the city that draw residents and tourists alike.

Outside of Cincinnati, JRA has been the mastermind behind sites in the US and far around the globe. The talented group of writers, planners, designers, media producers, and project managers that is JRA has left its mark, among numerous other places, on the LEGOLAND® theme parks in California and London; the Kennedy Space Center in Florida; the Arabic International Cultural Center in Ningxia, China; and Merlion Park on the waterfront of Singapore’s island resort, Sentosa.


p01_article_jra_ferrariwindFerrari World
Whether you enjoy a slower pace or surges of adrenaline, staying close to home or traveling to distant spots, if a JRA creation is your destination, your experience is guaranteed to be interactive and engaging. But for those who crave the combination of a thrilling theme park in a far-off location, Ferrari World is beyond gratifying. Opened in 2005 on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, Ferrari World is the first, and the largest, indoor theme park — in the world.
Ferrari World flaunts the same performance and innovation excellence for which the Ferrari brand is recognized and lauded. Within the 925,000 square feet (86,000 square meters) of this Ferrari paradise, JRA has skillfully packaged more than twenty state-of-the art attractions. Perhaps most attractive to true Ferrari aficionados, the park offers an exclusive Ferrari Driving Experience. Guests are offered a one-on-one experience with a Ferrari expert as copilot, or a chance to hop in the “most stylish car” with companions to cruise Yas Island.

Others would challenge that Ferrari World’s Formula Rossa is the most electrifying attraction. The world’s fastest roller coaster, Formula Rossa provides passengers the realistic feel of riding in a Ferrari F1 car. The incredible G-force experience begins with a hydraulic launch and takes passengers on a ride that climbs more than two hundred feet. JRA senior project director Randy Smith declares his love for the coaster without hesitation. “I mean, 149 mph in three seconds! Who doesn’t love that?”

Some of the research Randy did on this project was pretty amazing. He reflects fondly on one of his many trips to Maranello, Italy, home of Ferrari, where he was “taken on a few hot laps around the Ferrari test track by Ferrari’s senior driver. That was pretty cool.”

Although pleasurable encounters such as this were not uncommon, designing and producing Ferrari World was a tremendous undertaking. It required the JRA team to collaborate with multiple entities, including partners Ferrari and Aldar Properties PJSC, a top Abu Dhabi real estate development, management, and investment company. But like the speed freaks who enjoy Ferrari World’s Formula Rossa, the JRA designers are serious adrenaline junkies who welcome a challenge.

p01_article_jra_ferraricoasterRon Bunt, JRA vice president of production and the team’s executive lead on Ferrari World, was fully dedicated not only to the project but also to the actual site. “I originally signed up for two months, which turned into three years.” Ron concisely sums up living in Abu Dhabi with one word: “Hot!” He adds, “The summers were tough, but the winters . . .”

Besides appreciating the benefits of avoiding Cincinnati winters, Ron says, “It [living in Abu Dhabi] was exciting and amazing. Where else could you watch a nation being built and be a part of it?”

JRA has a magical way of livening up the scenes and the lives of people around them through the communication of information and ideas, the telling of stories. It takes a special team who can both think and execute creatively, to change fantasy into reality. Ferrari World Abu Dhabi required digging in deep on both sides of the brain—from conceptualization, planning, design, executive media production, and project management to, finally, realization. And JRA has performed these feats of imagination-to-engineering as masterfully as the company whose story it tells.

It is not a leap to recognize that success leads back to JRA’s founder, Jack Rouse, who founded JRA in 1987. His leadership and vision has produced awards for many of the hundreds of remarkable venues and attractions JRA has created over the past thirty years. In addition, Rouse’s dedication to community excellence and his generosity in attaining it is recognized throughout Greater Cincinnati with his service to organizations such as the Cincinnati Zoo, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, and the Cincinnati Central City Development Corporation.

With Rouse’s retirement in 2009, ownership and oversight passed to long-time partner and JRA champion, Keith James. James, like Rouse, is one of the most respected leaders in themed entertainment, dedicating his entire career to the industry and racking up various accolades in his own right.

Just one of many wonders realized under James’s leadership, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is an award-winning marvel that you have to experience to believe. The storytelling between the dynamic park and JRA is reciprocal. Just as JRA has brought the story of Ferrari to life, Ferrari World’s existence tells volumes about the story of JRA. Bunt describes the Ferrari World project as a “culmination of the blood, sweat, and tears of many,” crediting the project’s success to the “fifty other talented, dedicated professionals who made me look good.”

When asked what differentiates JRA from other exhibition design companies, Bunt says, “It’s family. Most of the folks here at JRA have a long tenure. Most times, we can finish each other’s sentences. And, like any family, we’ve been together through good times and bad.”