Keith James, CEO of theme park and attraction designers, JRA, on being awarded IAAPA’s (International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions) highest honour, the Outstanding Service Award for 2011.
Keith picked up his prize at this year’s IAAPA conference in November; the award recognises a distinguished career that has spanned 40 years. Keith started working in the attractions industry in the early 70s, at a regional park outside of Cincinnati, after graduating from the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music in 1974.
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According to IAAPA, the award “is presented in recognition of a member individual that works to foster the spirit of goodwill, professionalism, and higher levels of performance within the industry regionally, nationally, or internationally.”
Following his graduation, Keith teamed up with Jack Rouse to found King Productions, the entertainment production and facility design division of the Taft Broadcasting Company’s amusement park group.
There he learned all the disciplines involved in the design and construction of theme parks. Keith went on to become Director of Planning and Development for Canada’s Wonderland in 1979 and Director of Operations by 1981.
Keith went on to become Vice President of Operations for the 1986 World’s Fair in Vancouver in 1983, before returning to Taft as Managing Director of Australia’s Wonderland in Sydney.
Following this, Keith returned to the States, where he was appointed Vice President at Universal Studios Florida in 1987 and subsequently promoted to Senior Vice President, Planning and Development in 1990. This meant he took complete control of production for the park rides, shows and art departments.
Receiving his award, Keith thanked his mentors, co-workers, wife Patti and daughters Chloe and Alexis for the honour: “to be recognized by your peers for something that you love to do every day, is amazing,” he said.
Keith ended his contract with Universal in 1991 and went on to join Jack Rouse Associates with his former colleague.
Keith’s passion for the attractions industry is reflected in his interest in the growth and direction of the sector. In addition to his work, he has been involved with the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) since 1993 and was President in the years 2000-2002 and was instrumental in “establishing the TEA as a leading force in the entertainment industry.”