New $10 million ‘Academy of Live Technology’ to open at Rock Lititz 

A rendering of the Academy of Live Technology, set to open at Rock Lititz next year. PHOTO/PROVIDED
A rendering of the Academy of Live Technology, set to open at Rock Lititz next year. PHOTO/PROVIDED

Construction is underway at Rock Lititz for a $10 million new center that will educate the next generation workforce for the entertainment industry. 

Lancaster-based PA College of Art & Design (PCA&D) and UK-based Academy of Live Technology at Production Park (formerly Backstage Academy) have partnered to create the Academy of Live Technology (ALT) on the 108-acre campus at Rock Lititz.  

According to the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, the project will cost about $10 million. 

The partnership represents a global-scale collaboration, melding the strengths and expertise of Rock Lititz, PCA&D and the British higher education provider, which has provided live production creative, technical and professional skills to students since its founding in 2011. 

“When we began conversations with the Academy for Live Technology, we found in ALT a group of faculty and educational leaders that had the same ethos, the same care for students and the same belief in the future of creatives in our economy,” said PCA&D President Michael Molla. “We’re excited to partner with ALT and Rock Lititz to create what we believe will be the best live experience design program in the country.” 

Once open in the fall of 2024, students will attend their general education classes at PCA&D’s downtown Lancaster facilities, then receive their immersive technical education on the Rock Lititz campus, earning a four-year BFA degree in Live Experience Design & Production.  

Recognizing the proximity to several live experience and event production companies in the region, PCA&D added a major in Live Experience Design in 2021 to prepare art and design students for opportunities in the industry. 

ALT at Rock Lititz will adjoin the existing large-scale rehearsal spaces, Studio 1 and Studio 2.  

The structure includes 22,400 square feet of classrooms, production space, digital labs and a students’ common area, with the option of expanding to the second and third floors to meet future needs.  

A fourth rehearsal studio is also included in the structure, which will accommodate artists who perform at clubs, theaters and small amphitheater venues, while providing PCA&D students with hands-on experiences in production technologies.  

The 9,300 square-feet Studio B includes 7,000 square feet of open span space for rehearsals, product demonstrations and technical training sessions. 

ALT and partnership among Rock Lititz, PCA&D and Backstage Academy will be launched at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival at The British Music Embassy March 13 by Lee Brooks, CEO of Production Park and Rachel Nicholson of ALT, Andrea Shirk, president and CEO at Rock Lititz and Dr. Carissa Massey, provost of PCA&D. 

 “Rock Lititz offers the same rich community of innovators, experts, industry leaders, rebels and creators—a perfect place for students to learn. There is no better place in the USA for the Academy of Live Technology to land,” Brooks said. 

“We have an opportunity to impact the level and access of training available within the live entertainment industry, while also exploring new and alternative approaches to the overall college experience,” Shirk said.  

“Students will become industry professionals on day one, learning next to specialty experts and working on active projects. The hands-on approach, mixed with some traditional classroom access through a strong institution like Pennsylvania College of Art & Design ensures a unique and immersive path for young professionals to earn an education, while also advancing their careers,” Shirk said.  

“The live entertainment industry is innovative creativity at its best. It’s how you imagine, then actualize, what has never been done before. It’s what we ask of our students, to be bold, to see differently,” said Molla. “We are excited for this partnership that will empower creatives to infuse Rock Lititz with their energy and enthusiasm as ALT joins us to mentor and prepare an up-and-coming workforce. “  

Pennsylvania Christmas + Gift Show to feature 500-plus vendors

Ready for some serious holiday shopping?

The 39th Pennsylvania Christmas + Gift Show is coming to the Farm Show Complex on Nov. 30-Dec. 4. One of the largest and longest-running Christmas holiday shows in the U.S., it will feature more than 500 vendors and specialty shops, as well as an entertainment stage and Christmas Tree Lane. Tickets, which can be purchased online, are $9 for adults; children 11 and under are admitted free with a paying adult. Tickets purchased at the box office after 4 p.m. are $6. Discounts are also available for groups and seniors. And there is a $2 coupon for parking in the Farm Show lot.

The Pennsylvania Christmas + Gift Show draws more than 30,000 attendees over its five days. Hours this year are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 30, Dec. 1, 2 and 3; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 4.

Charity partners for the event at Dauphin County Systems of Care Community Partners and Habitat for Humanity.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Gov. Wolf signs bill to bolster outdoor entertainment at bars, restaurants

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed House Bill 1615 into law Monday, a measure that is aimed at making it easier for bars and restaurants to offer outdoor entertainment. 

Now known as Act 67 of 2022, the act allows all liquor license holders to have up to 75 decibels of sound on their property during certain hours, similar to the regulations on wineries. 

 The move has been applauded by the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association. 

“During the past two years as a result of COVID, the need for this change grew louder as Pennsylvanians put greater demand on outdoor activities including dining and entertainment,” said Executive Director Chuck Moran. “In the past, any sound on the property line of a bar, tavern, licensed restaurant or club could result in a citation. This essentially caused establishments to hesitate before offering outdoor dining entertainment as part of its outdoor dining experience.” 

 Since the law is effective immediately, now all liquor licensees in counties class 2A through class 8 are permitted up to 75 decibels on their property line from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.   

 “This update to outdated liquor laws is fair. It certainly encourages the use of outdoor dining with a low level of sound such as acoustic music. And we’re sure it will benefit patrons, musicians, and licensed establishments,” said Moran.  


Lancaster County hotel room demand sets first-quarter record 

Demand for Lancaster County hotel rooms set a first-quarter record this year, as visitors flocked to the Garden Spot. 

The county is a hot destination these days with its smaller urban areas, access to open spaces and wide variety of attractions. 

Ed Harris, CEO of Discover Lancaster, said hotel room demand is up 33% from the first three months of 2021. 

“Typically, the first quarter is the softest for hotels in Lancaster County,” so this number has hoteliers optimistic about the rest of the year, he said. 

2022 “is setting up to be a flagship year,” Harris said. 

With high demand the catalyst, hotel room revenue totaled $40.7 million in the first quarter, significantly more than the $24.9 million from a year ago. “Hotels feel really good about that,” he said. 

Sight & Sound Theatres’ “David” is a major draw bringing visitors to Lancaster County. When that venue debuts a new show, Harris said, that typically creates a positive ripple effect in the local economy. 

One persistent negative is a workforce shortage in the hospitality sector, he said. Becoming fully staffed is a challenge. 

But Harris said there are signs that the situation might be improving. 

During the worst of COVID-19, Lancaster County became a popular retreat. Its geographic proximity to big cities on the East Coast makes it a drivable destination, he said. 

A broad range of lodging is available, including unique places like the Cartoon Network Hotel, with price points to match nearly any budget, Harris said. 

The perception is that it’s more affordable than metro areas and beach towns. “Your dollar goes a little further,” he said. 

The Lancaster County Commissioners and Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development also gave Discover Lancaster more than $3 million during the pandemic to use toward marketing and advertising, which was a tremendous help, Harris said. 

The county rebounded a little faster than many other areas, he said, with momentum picking up in the fourth quarter of 2021. 

Then, in February and March, with all this pent-up demand, “things really started to take off,” Harris said. 

“At the end of the day, people want to travel somewhere.” 

‘Great destinations don’t have to be Disney’ 

For the trailing 12-month period ending April 20, the Lancaster submarket was at 98.5% revenue per available room, or RevPAR, compared with the 2019 pre-pandemic baseline, according to data from Kalibri Labs. 

David Aungst, president of High Hotels Ltd., which owns and operates 14 hotels, seven of which are in central Pennsylvania, said one reason the county’s hotel industry has bounced back is the COVID-weary public’s yearning for open spaces and small towns. “Clearly, Lancaster has it in spades,” he said. 

Like Harris, Aungst emphasized Lancaster County’s location. “It’s a very, very drivable market, an easy place to get in and out of.” 

He, too, spoke about the range of hotel offerings, from upper upscale to economy. “The leisure traveler is really flooding into reasonably priced hotels,” Aungst said. 

The market came out of the gate in the first quarter very strong, he said. 

York is in good shape, too, with 103% revenue per available room compared with 2019. Aungst said York has a lot of wedding venues and is “doing a good job on economic development.” 

The Harrisburg submarket and its government-dependent hotels, however, are taking longer to recover, with a RevPAR of 90% compared with the pre-pandemic baseline. 

Overall, the hotel sector has revived quicker than many expected, said Aungst, noting that those in the hotel industry see a direct link from hospitality to economic development. 

“There is a deep desire among people to spend time with other people and go out and have experiences,” he said. 

“The great thing about central Pennsylvania is we have all these things to offer,” Aungst said. “Great destinations don’t have be Disney.” 

Dutch Wonderland to go cashless 

Lancaster County’s Dutch Wonderland is the latest amusement park to go cashless, announcing that it will accept only electronic payments when it opens to the public this season April 16. 

“By transitioning to only accepting electronic payments such as debit cards, credit cards, and mobile methods like Apple Pay, Dutch Wonderland will provide a faster, safer and more guest-friendly experience,” its website said. “Staff will spend less time handling cash and more time serving guests, reducing our reliance on this less secure method of payment.” 

Visitors who arrive with cash can convert that to a prepaid card worth up to $500 at one of the East Lampeter Township venue’s cash-to-card kiosks. 

The electronic payments accepted include all major credit and debit card providers (Visa, MasterCard, AMEX, Discover) and secure mobile payment systems (Apple Pay, Google/Android Pay, Samsung Pay). 

Old Mill Stream campground and Cartoon Network Hotel, also owned by Dutch Wonderland’s parent company, Palace Entertainment, will become cashless as well.

Last month, Hersheypark made a similar announcement as the iconic theme park prepared for its 116th operating season. 

Hershey employers join for third annual career expo this month

Hershey area employers, including Hershey Entertainment & Resorts and Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, will participate in the annual Hershey Career Expo being held from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 31, at the Purcell Friendship Hall on 109 McCorkle Road, Hershey.

Area employers with recruiters at the event include: Milton Hershey School (MHS), Catherine Hershey Schools for Early Learning (CHS), Hershey’s Chocolate World, Hershey Entertainment & Resorts, the medical center and the Hershey Company.

MHS and CHS are looking for full-time, year-round; full-time school year; and part-time positions for a variety of departments.

MHS is seeking health care and transportation professionals, houseparents and educators. CHS, which plans to open its first location on the MHS campus by spring 2023, is seeking an operations director, human resources manager and finance manager.