Digital Signage and Destination Venues

Zachary Todd

It’s no secret that more and more designers, architects, and real estate developers are incorporating digital display technology, either in renovation projects or new construction. This trend is leading to a steady increase in LED and LCD display systems, often connected over large networks, used for advertising, public service messaging, wayfinding, digital art, and more. In other words, LED is a major design consideration for interior and exterior spaces, not an afterthought.

Venues are developing digital experiences that inform but also create a unified brand voice or digital immersion. Imagine, for example, a large outdoor space capable of precision synchronization between digital media content, lighting, and sound.

Of course, one of the most complex settings for digital display systems is the entertainment destination venue. Sure, I may be a little fixated on the concept behind entertainment destination venues. As part of the digital signage industry, I obviously have professional motivation to dig into the subject. However, as someone who values convenience and efficiency over busyness, the idea of one location with a wide range of entertainment options (or shopping, dining, or lodging, as the case may be) appeals to me greatly. 

Self-interest aside, this trend is important enough to discuss in more detail. What does the term “destination venue” mean? What makes an LED display at one of these venues different from standard digital out-of-home (OOH) signage?

WHAT IS A DESTINATION VENUE?

So, let’s define an entertainment destination venue and discuss why it matters to LED display manufacturers and providers.

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Destination venues are places people decide to go and stay at because they’re all-inclusive, one-stop shops designed to encourage visitors to stay on a single property. They are destinations unto themselves. In some cases, visitors will travel great distances and stay for several days or more. In other cases, visitors make a day trip to a local landmark that can create its own city-center vibe.

Defining entertainment destinations as places people go to on purpose might sound pretty obvious, but it makes a big difference to how designers or content providers incorporate LED screens into a property.

For example, digital retail signage is designed to attract attention from someone passing by. It draws the casual observer into a physical space they may not otherwise have planned to visit. But if that person is staying on location or going to a concert or sporting event, then the LED screens might be more geared toward helping them navigate the venue or announcing important information.

Some synonymous terms for entertainment destination venues include mixed-use venue, entertainment complex, and entertainment district. I tend to use these terms interchangeably, though there are some subtle distinctions. For example, an entertainment complex would be housed under one roof, while an entertainment district may incorporate numerous unique indoor and outdoor points of interest, essentially becoming its own city center.  The former are often developed by a single entity. The latter venues aren’t usually planned, owned, and operated by a single organization, but draw others into their space.

Now, having established that an entertainment destination venue is a place you go out of your way to visit, as opposed to passing by and noticing it for the first time, let’s talk about some of the nuance available.

Resorts / Theme Parks

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Think Disney World, though a venue doesn’t have to be that big to qualify. Really any location that specializes in vacations and has options to stay on the premises will work. The Margaritaville Resort in Orlando, for instance, has more than 30 digital displays, including LCD monitors, free-standing kiosks, and interior and exterior LED screens across the 300-acre property. The digital signage network promotes various events and activities throughout the resort and shows commercial content.

The Margaritaville Nashville property exemplifies another important use for LED display technology at resorts. Here an LED display behind the reception desk helps set the relaxed, island ambiance that the iconic resort chain is known and loved for.

Megamalls

While many prefer to call megamalls something fancy like “destination shopping centers,” let’s be real. American Dream Meadowlands is a big-ass mall. However, unlike the malls that existed when I was a kid, which were just stores, a food court, and a movie theater if you were really lucky, this three-million-square-foot behemoth is full of things to do without even setting foot inside a store.

In addition to the 500 retail stores and restaurants (which, for a mall, is still probably the main draw), the destination entertainment venue features an ice-skating rink, waterpark, the first indoor ski slope in the U.S., two mini-golf courses, and a theme park.

SNA Displays is supplying more than 40,000 square feet of digital signage throughout the American Dream campus and continues to roll out indoor and outdoor LED displays as further development continues. As you can imagine, this gives the facility staggering advertising and informational potential. Plus, displays like the Nickelodeon Universe Slime Tower are just plain fun to watch.

Key Characteristics

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Entertainment districts vary in their offerings. Sometimes they’re built to support a primary focus, such as a sports arena. Other times, variety is the whole point, such as in a mall. However, most of them have some combination of shopping, dining, offices, living space, public gathering/conference space, services (critical care facilities, dentists), physical activities (thrill rides, skating rinks), and other amenities or entertainment options (gyms, movie theaters).

The increasing popularity of real-estate developments that design living space around the above-mentioned combination of activities create a mini city environment. Imagine stepping outside of your apartment and being a few paces away from going out to eat, catching a movie, visiting the library, and picking up groceries, all in a beautifully designed, self-contained community.

Whatever options exist, digital signage is designed into the fabric of these kinds of destination venues, especially the newer ones. As a result, content—including well-designed advertising—can be an essential part of the visitor’s broader experience. Through custom content and cutting-edge digital management systems capable of controlling a layered matrix of digital platforms, LED display systems not only alter the landscape of (typically) urban settings but create an immersive experience for that destination venue.

Day Trip / Live Entertainment

There’s another sub-category of destination venue that doesn’t fit into either the resort or megamall model but is still worth discussing: the mixed-use venue. These entertainment destination settings are geared more towards day trips and live entertainment. They’re separate from a shopping destination in that, while they may include shops, they are more event driven.

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Mixed-use venues such as Live! Casino & Hotel in Maryland and L.A. Live! in California offer the ultimate spectator experience using LED screens that can accommodate all kinds of live events, including concerts, comedy shows, prize fighting, and even interactive shared experiences. Many of these state-of-the-art entertainment destinations also set the tone for the surrounding area (hence, “entertainment district” becoming an increasingly important term).

The design strategy in mixed-use venues pulls together diverse elements such as art, dining, media, and architecture to attract the public and ratchet up the energy level.

The digital signage element for these venues come in the form of touch-screen LCD kiosks (or increasingly popular touchless digital screens) that help you find your way around and large-format, direct-view LED screens that display advertisements, public announcements, or stunning artistic content.  Occasionally, they include public digital art installations.

And let’s not forget about sports arenas like a certain famous baseball park in Boston. Not only do modern sports areas use LED screens to evolve into multi-purpose entertainment complexes (for example, I’ve seen concerts at Boston Garden, Turner Field, Capital One Arena, and other sports venues that used large-format LED screens), but the technology is spreading outside the arena itself. Whether you’re pre-gaming at a local eatery or grabbing a drink afterwards, LED displays can give you directions or point you toward your new favorite hotspot.


The above list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, and many projects that SNA Displays has worked on cross into multiple categories. Titletown, for example, is both a 45-acre entertainment district and a live-sporting event venue. However, hopefully this discussion helps solidify the concept.

The last few years have seen many new entertainment complexes sprout up and most of them are incorporating LED screens as a vital means of advertising, digital wayfinding, or artistic expression. It takes a unique combination of skills and expertise to ensure the digital element is done well, but I look forward to seeing this trend continue.

Zachary Todd is a communications associate with SNA Displays, copywriting and editing a variety of communications material such as company news releases, blogs, and case studies

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