THE GRAND BOULEVARD PUTS A NEW FACE ON THE CASINO TOWN

Over the last 10 years, Las Vegas has undergone a period of explosive growth, with new hotels and attractions appearing constantly, in an ongoing attempt to diversify its customer base. At the same time, Atlantic City, NJ, Vegas' East Coast counterpart, has remained remarkably the same, relying on a mix of gambling and old-fashioned showroom entertainment to attract its core audience. However, times change and, in the face of competition from the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos in Connecticut, Atlantic City has begun to spruce up. The most dramatic example of this is the Grand Boulevard, an outdoor attraction that transforms the city's casino area into a glittering city of light.

One persistent complaint about Atlantic City is the urban decay surrounding the boardwalk and casinos. Thus, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority (CRDA) was formed to address this issue. Thanks to the CRDA, visitors exit off the expressway and right into Grand Boulevard, a 14-acre park. The Grand Boulevard really comes alive at night, with highly theatrical lighting, as well as laser, light, and sound shows, all created by Stone Mountain Productions.

Based in Stone Mountain, GA, Stone Mountain Productions (SMP) is known for creating light, pyro, and sound shows for the theme park and special events market; other recent projects include exterior lighting for such projects as the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, the Millennium Force roller coaster at Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH, and the Ben Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia. (Stone Mountain also recently hired LD Joe Zamore, well-known in these pages as the LD for many Miami nightclubs, as designer for the newly formed Stone Mountain Lighting Group.) SMP also created a lighting and laser show for High Falls Park, an urban redevelopment in Rochester, NY (part of the project involved lighting a 90' waterfall); this project attracted the attention of Atlantic City's Casino Redevelopment Authority, leading to the company's involvement in Grand Boulevard.

As viewed at night, the Grand Boulevard is dominated by a large fountain and a 90'-tall (27m) lighthouse structure whose tower is wrapped in fabric. According to David Groves, president and senior designer at SMP, the tower is a key visual element. "The lighthouse is an icon of the downtown city center area," he says. The tower of the lighthouse is swathed in two very large (approx. 30' diameter) pieces of fiberglass fabric, a choice that influenced the lighting design. "Our original thought was to put lighting effects in the lighthouse," says Groves. "But when we saw the structure, with the wraps, we saw it would be a great object to light as well." Thus, he says, "we have a row of lights shooting up in the structure, illuminating it from within, plus units placed at three different points to light the exterior."

Of course, the structure is a lighthouse, so placed in the crown are five High End Systems Studio Colors[R] to shoot lighting effects out into the night air. In addition, seven High End Studio Spots[R] are placed around the perimeter of the lantern, to send more beam effects out into the atmosphere and on the ground. To facilitate the sweeping beam effect, a system of Le Maitre G300s blows fog through the lantern floor, aided by three fans from Sigma Services. Also found in the lantern are 10 High End Dataflash[R] AF-1000 strobes and a Yag laser, provided by Laser Rays, that rises up through the tower (courtesy of a fiber-optic delivery system). Inside the main body of the tower is a ring of five ETC Irideon architectural moving lights, creating an internal color wash.

Externally, the tower is lit by units placed in three smaller surrounding structures, or poles, located 80-100' (24-30m) away from the tower and at 120 angles from each other. Each pole features two High End Systems Cyberlight[R] Turbos (equipped with an MSR 1200 SA lamp, to deliver 100% more light than a typical Cyber); these units project High End LithoPatterns[TM] on the fiberglass wrap, making for a constantly changing series of looks. Also placed on each structure is one High End ES-1[TM] and one EC-1[TM] (essentially architectural versions of the Studio Spot and Studio Color) to complete the light wash on the tower.

Finally, each pole features two fiber-optic laser scanners powered by Spectra-Physics Chroma 10 lasers; Groves explains that these units allow for efficient coupling with a polychromatic acousto-optic modulator, "which is how we do the various colors." During the light shows, these units scan the fabric on the tower, covering them with images that evoke Atlantic City's aura and history. One show features a parade of casino-related images, including logos, while another features symbols of the city's gaudy past, including the famous Diving Horse attraction on the boardwalk.

Next in importance is the fountain, which contains 11 aerator jets, designed by The Fountain People; each jet is lit from below by four Hydrel underwater fixtures. The sprays of water are colorfully lit by 10 Cyberlight Turbos, enclosed in Tempest Lighting weatherproof enclosures, placed on twin poles near the water (with five Turbos per pole). "We do a lot of work on the fountain area, with light aimed in the mist of the aerators," Groves says. "When you walk through the area, you get a nice show by looking back in the other direction, into the mist." The entire laser-light show which, all told, can last up to an hour, can be viewed from a grassy slope nearby.

The lighting, lasers, and sound (SMP also did the sound for the project) are run from a 90'-long control room located under a walkway that runs along the fountain area. "It's called the yellow submarine," says Groves, adding that the room contains all electrical control, plus the lasers. The light show is run off of the High End Systems Status Cue[R] controller, with the lasers controlled by a proprietary Windows-based program developed by SMP. All lights, lasers, and sound are coordinated via SMPTE time code.

A related attraction, also the work of SMP, is the Visitor's Center, located a few miles away. The center is two-story building, topped with an elaborate fiberglass fabric roof and an A-frame truss. Next to it is an aluminum-clad blue wall cut into a shape that suggests both a breaking wave and a C shape (Together, the two structures subliminally spell out AC, for Atlantic City). The roof of the Visitors' Center is lit by eight EC-1s, creating a constantly changing wash of saturated colors. Four more EC-1s light the A-frame truss structure above the roof. Lighting the wave wall are two EC-1s and two ES-1s, the latter used to make a wave pattern on the wall. In addition, the wall is outlined in Lumenyte fiber optics, using four 100W xenon sources.

SMP has been involved with the Grand Boulevard since 1997, with product upgrades happening more or less continuously (many of the lighting units involved are only a year or so old). Overall, says Groves, the biggest challenge to the Grand Boulevard project was its scale. "The park is 14 acres," he says. "We had lines running all over the place. Our biggest challenge was the fiber optics, trying to get a nice tight beam for the laser show; the longest run is nearly 200' (61m), which is very long for fiber, with graphics at the end of it. There was a lot of testing and R&D for that part of the project." However, he adds, "It's nice working with the people there. They're interested in keeping the place fresh and, as technology advances, we're able to do minor changes, like adding the Turbos, that punch up the light level with very little effort. They're keen to keep it up." All of which means Atlantic City greets the future with a bright new face.