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The Wiener Stadthalle 2003

Vienna, Austria's New Performance and Entertainment Venue

 

Background

The Wiener Stadthalle - www.stadthalle.com - Vienna's Municipal Arena complex is Austria's largest indoor performance venue and, upon its inauguration in the late 1950's, was one of Europe's first multipurpose facilities. Currently, the Stadthalle hosts a variety of entertainment, sports and business events - from Holiday on Ice to Tom Jones to trade shows.

 

Architectural Competition

Plans are currently underway to expand the Wiener Stadthalle to include a multi-purpose building suitable for sports events, to accommodate a maximum of 2000 spectators, as well redevelop the ticket sales area and include a new information building. In addition, development of new entertainment, food and beverage and retail areas along with a new concourse linking the main arena and the new complex are envisioned.

The new Theater/Entertainment Hall - 2006

 

This initial expansion project was the subject of an architectural competition which was launched in April of 2002. Gordon Linden, acting as advisor to the management of the Stadthalle, provided input to the organizers of the competition including terms of reference for developing a multi-purpose entertainment/exhibition area. The competition was successfully concluded and the submission of the office of Dietrich/Untertrifaller Arkitekten was awarded first prize. The solution proposed is a complementary composition of forms which is responsive to the existing exhibition halls, providing a solid link between the past and the future.

"Edutainment" Center

As part of the planning for the development of the new Theater/Entertainment facilities for the Wienerstadthalle, a preliminary feasibility study was undertaken by Ansel Associates to examine the potentials for developing a unique, interactive educational and entertainment experience in part of the new facility. Joe Ansel was one of the originators of the interactive exhibit approach to education working with the legendary Frank Oppenheimer to create the Exploratorium in San Francisco, California which has spawned more than 400 interactive science centers in the U.S. alone with many more developed and being developed in other cities throughout the world. Ansel Associates are currently at work on a major new project in Wolfsburg, Germany which is being designed by the renowned architect Zaha Hadid. Gordon Linden acted as advisor to Ansel Associates in preparing the study. An Executive Summary of the study follows:

 

Concept

The Edutainment Center (EC) at the Wiener Stadthalle will provide a venue and program for Vienna - and Austria - which addresses one of the central issues of modern-day information and communications mediums: how to educate and engage young people and adults in a meaningful and rewarding way on the subjects of sports, entertainment and performing arts in a world increasingly dominated by movies, video games, television and other passive media. For many decades, traditional museums, cultural attractions and similar institutions have separated people from the inherent dynamism of subjects like physics and biology which are typically represented and displayed in static exhibits in glass-enclosed boxes or by historic industrial equipment. In response to the frustrations of guests and educators alike with these traditional offerings, contemporary visitor attractions have focused on a vocabulary of more interactive, dynamic displays and exhibits to attract and retain interest while delivering in-depth content. The concept for the Wiener Stadthalle EC is a manifestation of the evolution of an archetype in the world of contemporary visitor attractions, which was fashioned in the late 60's in San Francisco by the scientist Dr. Frank Oppenheimer. Oppenheimer, and his colleagues at the world-renowned Exploratorium, were at the forefront of a movement to expand the boundaries of learning and education by creating exhibits which engaged visitors in an entertaining and educational dialogue; as a result of these ground-breaking efforts, the genre of interactive learning centers was born. Today, there are more than 400 facilities worldwide, which are dedicated to this general proposition. Often called "science centers" or "discovery museums", the Exploratorium archetype has become a phenomenal success in many settings and in many cultures.

Virtually all of the existing and planned science centers in the world are developed and operated as "stand-alone" projects. These "stand-alone" projects, unlike the EC at the Wiener Stadthalle which will be incorporated into a well-established, multi-faceted, professionally-managed venue which currently attracts over one million visitors a year, must develop and support a range of facilities, exhibits, services and human resources in order to maintain a successful operation. In many cases, the requirements for development of stand-alone EC's include purchasing or leasing land, building or renovating a suitable structure, hiring and training a full staff, acquiring exhibits and implementing marketing plans; the financial resources needed to support "stand-alone" projects, while varying significantly according to the scope and size of the facility, are quite extensive and often range upwards of several million Euros. In sharp contrast to these requirements, the Wiener Stadthalle's EC will build upon the existing and future infrastructure and facilities of the Stadthalle as well as the larger organization of people and programs to provide a unique, value-added proposition.

While there is a wide range of content that EC's can draw upon in creating inviting, successful visitor attractions, the "stand-alone" facilities must adopt relatively standard thematic concepts as the underlying basis for organizing exhibits and presentations. This situation arises from the fact that "stand-alone" facilities do not have inherent opportunities to link the content with a larger program of offerings. Unlike the "stand-alone" facilities and building on the excellent range of current and future offerings of the Stadthalle in terms of sports (both spectator and participant), entertainment, performance, and exhibitions, the new EC will provide a range of interactive experiences and exhibits which visitors, either individually or in small groups, will utilize to explore and expand their understanding of such subjects. Thus, the Stadthalle's EC will be a very unique, "first-of-its-kind" facility in linking the visitor attraction content with a vibrant, robust program of appealing entertainment, performances, sports competitions and exhibitions. For example, enthusiasts of motocross may learn more about their favorite sport which they can see as spectators at the Stadthalle via exhibits on the physics of the motorcycle engine; likewise, a motocross athlete may make an appearance in the EC to explain his jumping technique which may be demonstrated in terms of motion and physics. Fans of popular music may have a "hands-on" experience with how synthesizers capture conventional sounds that can be modified via processors to create the sounds we hear on the radio. Because of the richness of the thematic materials that the Wiener Stadthalle offers, the opportunities for creating a unique EC are almost unlimited.

Location

The EC will be located within the new Halle 'F' at the Stadthalle, which will accommodate the theater and ancillary and support spaces including ticketing, food and beverage, restrooms, etc. The main entrance to the complex will be a large foyer facing onto the existing park (which will be replaced upon completion of the new underground parking structure, now under construction). Visitors may purchase tickets for the EC from the new ticketing area which will serve the entire Wiener Stadthalle and then proceed across the foyer, passing the larger of two restaurant facilities at this level and enter a two story area which leads down to the main activity area; access to the exhibit areas will be possible via stairs, a "slide" or by elevator. The large entry area at the main level of the complex will contain active exhibitry, lighting and signage to attract visitors and will be visible, via glass partitions, from both the main street outside the complex and the restaurant area.

Size

The total area fully dedicated to the EC is about 1600 m2 including the entrance, merchandise store and main exhibition areas. An additional 2,000 m2 of space, which is shared with other functions at the Wiener Stadthalle, accommodates ticketing, administration, maintenance and repair, storage, food and beverage, merchandising, circulation, restrooms, wardrobe, mechanical equipment, refuse collection and removal, parking, etc. In addition to the basic program requirements mentioned, the new complex will provide a theater suitable for film and live presentations, a large foyer that can accommodate temporary exhibits and events while other halls in the complex could be employed for other special activities. Because the Wiener Stadthalle complex serves a range of large group-oriented activities and events on a regular basis that are not normally found at a typical "science center", the standard and quality of provision for space at the new EC will be exceptionally generous and will enhance the operations of the venue.

Attendance

Based on an analysis of the experience of other projects of a similar size in various locations around the world, including Europe, a potential attendance scenario of 150,000 visitors per year has been employed for preliminary planning purposes. As with any attendance projection for a new attraction, the realization of a given level of visitation is dependent on many factors such as:

  1. Exhibition area and quality of the exhibitions.
  2. Marketing and project "positioning" vis--vis other offerings in the market area.
  3. Visibility, accessibility and usability of the EC's exhibition halls.
  4. Pricing of admissions, food and beverage, and merchandise.
  5. Number and type of changing programmatic events which the EC offers.
  6. Degree to which changing exhibits and EC programs can be scheduled and fashioned to capture part of the Wiener Stadthalle's current attendance.
  7. Managing visitor services and visitor expectations to insure good "word of mouth" (i.e. visitors who tell their relatives and friends about the positive experience they've had at the EC).
  8. Other factors such as economic conditions, the weather, competition from other venues, etc.

The aforementioned additional spaces and facilities provided within the new and expanded Wiener Stadthalle complex can accommodate a variety of added attractions, events and presentations which are not common at other science centers around the world and thus, the potential for additional attendance to be generated over the industry norms is quite good. As experience with operations is gained and attendance numbers are evaluated, if visitation is below expectations a variety of measures, such as enhanced signage, more aggressive pricing and marketing, may be considered as appropriate and necessary.

Operations:

The new EC will be operated, based on experience gained over many years in other similar venues throughout the world, on the concept of employing a small permanent management and technical staff which will be complemented by a larger group of "guides" or "interpreters" who will be deployed throughout the venue on a day-to-day basis. The "interpreters" will engage visitors and guests on an individual or small group basis and provide, where and when necessary and appropriate, the interface between the venue and exhibits and the visitors to ensure that they benefit from the opportunities and experiences which are provided therein. As previously noted, unlike "stand-alone" EC's, the Wiener Stadthalle has a current operation which encompasses a full range of operations functions such as general maintenance and repair, human resources, procurement, legal, marketing, food services, ticketing, etc. The EC can access these needed services without creating a new, independent organization which duplicates these staff positions; thus, the number of people required to operate the facility will be considerably smaller than in a "stand-alone" facility.

Business Plan

Preliminary provisions for revenues from all sources such as tickets and food and beverage sales to be generated by the EC operations are to the order of 1.125 million Euros annually while operating costs such as staff expenses, rental of exhibitions and purchase of new exhibits total approximately .95 million Euros, leaving a net of .175 million Euros. The .175 million Euros will cover the costs of depreciation of permanent assets (i.e. exhibits owned by the EC).

Unlike "stand-alone" EC projects which require significant capital investment in buildings and infrastructure and substantial operating budgets to support a large, dedicated staff, the Wiener Stadthalle venue can potentially achieve a very cost-effective venue within a relatively low budget.

Schedule: The various activities associated with the realization of the EC project at the Wiener Stadthalle will take approximately eighteen months, independent of the time required to construct and fit out the base building. During this period of time, additional planning and organization work will be completed including procuring and installing exhibits, developing operations and programming plans, training staff and initiating marketing efforts.