The Pacific Ballroom at Long Beach Arena
USA - To call the last two years of work on the Long Beach Arena "a renovation" would be a substantial understatement. In reality, the work done by Theatre Projects, working for John Sergio Fisher Architects, Jerry Sherman AIA, and the city of Long Beach, could more accurately be described as a reinvention - breathing new life and new commercial potential into a venue that - at 50 years old - had fallen behind its newer, larger competitors, and found itself unsuited to meet the needs of some potential clients.

As the arena creates a new identity for smaller events - The Pacific Ballroom at Long Beach Arena -and begins hosting concerts, receptions, fashion shows, sporting events, and numerous other events, it will do so at a pace and with an ease-of-use unrivalled in the convention industry. This newfound viability is thanks in large part to a one-of-a-kind moveable grid system that allows organizers to change from arena to ballroom, and alter the lighting and audio configurations with little more than the flick of a switch.

Responding to Long Beach Arena's need for versatility and the ability to tailor their venue to each client's unique needs, Theatre Projects contributed to the design of one of the country's largest flying truss and tension grid systems. The expansive grid, which has more than $ 1.6m in LED lighting integrated into it, can be lowered over the 45,000sq.ft convention floor to any desired height, helping define the new ballroom. Curtains hung from a surrounding truss are lowered, obscuring the view of the arena seats, creating a separate, intimate space on the arena floor. The ballroom, capable of seating up to 5,000 guests, can be customized into any seating configuration desired, and the built-in audio and lighting systems adapted in infinite arrangements.

Michael Ferguson, project director for Theatre Projects, said, "What makes it amazing is not just that it has the ability to have different configurations - it can be used for boxing, fashion, banquets, or TED Conferences - it's the ability to do all those things and turn over between them very quickly. They can have a church service, a concert, and then a graduation in three consecutive nights. If you need a 40,000ft space for a sit-down dinner, you can do it; Disney on Ice or Cirque du Soleil-they could do that as well."

The benefit of a highly adaptable venue is essentially lost if making that adaption is too cumbersome, time consuming, or labour intensive. The Pacific Ballroom was designed as a turnkey operation-allowing the organizers to adjust the size and shape of the room, lighting, and audio configurations with a minimum of time and effort.

"Previously, you would need to hire a whole crew of workers to hang trusses, lights, and speakers, and of course, you would need to give them the time to set up," Ferguson said. "Now you don't need to hire an entire crew just to create a more intimate space within the arena. With this system, within five minutes and 10 keystrokes, you could lower the ceiling, lower the draperies, and create completely immersive lighting throughout the ballroom."

In allowing the organizers to rapidly rearrange the ballroom for each event, the arena can turnover an unprecedented number of clients - and in doing so - exponentially increase their revenue.

"The cost [of hosting an event] can be cut in half, or even 80 percent," said Daniel Clancy, vice president of sales and event services at San Diego-based Vision Global Event Strategies.

By opting to reinvent the arena, creating a smaller, flexible venue, The Long Beach Arena is now capable of hosting a myriad of events and attracting a new, divergent clientele it couldn't previously consider. In taking this innovative approach-electing not to out-build the larger regional stadiums-the arena not only saved more than $100 million in construction, but also avoided the countless environmental hazards such a project would have created.

(Jim Ev

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