The grand opening of the 133,500 square foot production facility of the Royal Caribbean Cruises Entertainment Studios at FIU’s Biscayne Bay campus on Friday, March 20, was a sensation. Nick Weir, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL) Vice President for Entertainment and College of Architecture + The Arts (CARTA) Advisory Board member, introduced a special performance of “Sing, Sing, Sing,” which was a glimpse of the world class entertainment this center will provide. Nicole Kaufman Glasgow, FIU Interim Vice President for Entertainment, welcomed the over 200 guests, including RCL management, FIU senior administrators and faculty, trustees, and CARTA Advisory Board members.
Mark Rosenberg, President of FIU, set the tone of the ceremony with a speech that offered a great perspective on the significance of the partnership between FIU and RCL, a partnership that created this world class structure. He admired RCL’s vision and courage in committing to such a spectacular partnership. His comments on the passion of “Gotta Dance” encapsulated the thrills of experiencing firsthand the dynamics of a major commercial enterprise that FIU CARTA Theatre and Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management students will undergo as part of the partnership agreement. “It ties in with FIU’s vision of ensuring FIU students have a special experience,” said President Rosenberg.
Richard Fein, Chairman and CEO of RCL, was a down to earth and witty presenter. His speech focused on the business end of the agreement, touching on how to make the center a commercial success. He provided a fascinating summary of the four year journey of the project, starting with RCL’s low expectations of a 35,000 square foot building that was built “during the war of 1812” and featured an expiring lease, covering the extensive search from Homestead to Orlando for a new location, went onto his bus tour of Jerusalem with Adam Goldstein, President of RCL, that triggered a conversation about creating a truly world class facility and mentioned the excellent guided tour by FIU’s CFO of the Biscayne Bay Campus; and ended with the significant part CARTA played in creating the design of today’s magnificent result.
Fein stated that this grand opening was the beginning of a center that exemplifies how “form follows function” and added that the facility “will be a tool attracts top quality performers and students.” It will be remarkable in its ability to attract its own success and become a virtual circle of world class entertainment while providing real world experience for students.” Paul Steinsland shared his experience working with RCL and as a current FIU student, agreeing with Fein and stating that the facility will “provide both the experience and networking opportunities necessary to launch the career of a whole new generation of students.”
After the ribbon cutting, a champagne bottle was smashed on the side of the building (as is customary for ship christenings) and small tour groups were conducted by RCL entertainment staff. All the tour participants were blown away by the levels of organization and construction they saw. “As attractive as the building is on the outside, the interior space is almost beyond description for its functionality,” said Rick Tonkinson, CARTA Advisory Board Chairman. “The sheer scale of the operation with 17 show productions being created and rehearsed simultaneously with 1,000 performers is amazing,” said Ron Shuffield, FIU Director. “Making 9,000 custom made shoes and having 62,000 costume pieces at the facility is a major behind the scenes operation,” said Lisa Merritt, CARTA Director of Development. During the guided tours, participants viewed the three story Aerial Studio with Dreamworks. RCL has characters from Shrek, Madagascar, and Kung Fu Panda as part of their entertainment portfolio and will feature these characters in the training they provide at the facility.
“To conduct 150 shows a year for RCL, Celebrity, and Azamara cruise ships that include Broadway, ice skating, original shows, water shows, and aerial shows is incredible, and to have CARTA students involved will offer them the opportunity to gain magnificent real world experience,” said Dean Brian Schriner.
FIU’s motto of “Worlds Ahead” is completely appropriate for this world class facility. The FIU/RCL partnership is a wonderful way to celebrate FIU’s 50th anniversary. This magnificent creation will further embed both FIU and RCL in the community, and is a significant milestone for CARTA.