Who We Are

We are the Themed Entertainment Association at Notre Dame (TEA@ND). We are an on-campus club focused on the following:

  1. Educating members on the professional world of themed entertainment through presentations and guest speakers.
  2. Developing a relationship with the national Themed Entertainment Association and connecting members to the themed industry network.
  3. Providing opportunities to gain experience in the field through competitions, trips, and activities.

Our very first meeting was held at the beginning of the 2018 spring semester. As a fairly new organization we are always looking to connect with new people and to get engaged with new opportunities. Feel free to reach out to us at any of the contact information listed at the bottom of this site and explore our site to see what we are up to.

What We Do

Regular Meetings

Meetings are usually on Thursday evenings every other week and “TEA-torials” occur on the weeks in between. We have been fortunate enough to host a guest speaker from Disney Imagineering via video call in the spring of 2018. Other meeting topics have included career development in the themed entertainment industry led by Ryan Willerton from the Center for Career development at Notre Dame, updates in the industry, and even free time to work on interclub competitions.

This February, Tyler Emptage, a Disney Imagineer and Notre Dame grad from 2010, video called into our meeting. The club enjoyed the advice he shared and the opportunity to learn form someone with experience in the industry!

Our Members’ Work

Check out the article that Jacob Plocher, the club’s Event and Competition Chair, wrote for Notre Dame’s Scholastic magazine here. Make sure to scroll down to the 3rd article titled “Gardaland”.


In Club Competitions

In the fall of 2018, during one club meeting, members placed in groups were tasked with brainstorming a solution to the 2016 Disney Imaginations Competition prompt:

Design a traveling experience that will tour small towns across the United States so families who do not have the opportunity to travel to a Disney Park can have a Park experience. This temporary venue will operate in each community for two to three days, should take no more than a day to set up and break down, and embody the kind of family entertainment that Walt envisioned when he first built Disneyland.

The teams were given 15 minutes to put together their idea and a quick presentation. After developing their story to the best of their ability, the teams were given 2 minutes each to present. Below is one team presenting their initial concept for the prompt.

2018 Turn Notre Dame into a Theme Park Competition

Congratulations to Marissa Brennan and Margaret Swiecicki for winning the competition with their submission “Irish Crossroads”!

TEAscape Room

This year, our club is working on a yearlong project— an escape room. Bringing together all skill sets found in the club, we are in the process of planning and building an escape room. This project as well as many more in the future help members find hands on work that they can use to improve their skills leading to the themed industry.


SITE at OSU 2019

In early February, four of our members traveled to Columbus, Ohio to participate in the first ever Students In Themed Entertainment (SITE) conference. They built outstanding connections with industry professionals and other students interested in the themed entertainment industry. TEA@ND looks forward to future TEA conferences which we can attend and learn from!

Six Flags Trip 2018

In the spring of 2018, our club traveled to Gurnee, Illinois to attend Six Flags Great America. There are currently plans to continue these fun trips as well as to send members on trips to competitions and conferences around the United States. All of these immerse students in the field they love and help them develop stronger networks within those fields.

Cedar Point Trip 2018

This past fall semester, the Themed Entertainment Association at Notre Dame traveled to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. Members from the club learned a lot about the rides and history of Cedar Point sharing their knowledge with each other in a day of fun. Even with frigid rainy weather, fun was around every turn!

A Coaster Hunt

A pair of our members took a Saturday afternoon to do a little research and exploration regarding what the closest roller coaster to Notre Dame is. After a little google searching they found the answer on roller coaster database, a ride called Toboggan. Discovering that it lies only 13 miles from campus at a county park, they hopped in the car and drove down to check it out.

The story starts 40 years ago where the park operator had his employees build and install this all season rail run. However, as it was being built they struggled to find someone to insure the ride. Upon finishing it, the park director and construction manager gave it a ride (the car you rode in was simply a bucket!). On this very first ride they got thrown from the car going around a turn and tumbled into the woods. Thus, the decision was made to never operate the ride. Since then, the ride has been what is termed SBNO, standing but not operating, for its entire life. Regardless, it still stands 40 years later, on the eastern slope of Carlisle Hill, the second highest point in St. Joseph County, buried in the woods of northwest Indiana.

Arriving at Bendix Woods County Park, they were overjoyed when they found out parking was free that day (as all college students would be). They left the car in a parking lot and trekked off into the woods. The day seemingly magically shifted from a cold, cloudy South Bend day to a warm fall day filled with sun. Wandering through the falling yellow leaves  of Northern Indiana’s woods, they came across all sorts of things of beauty from the beauty of birds chirping in the trees, to an abandoned sugar mill, and to at last, in the back of the park, Toboggan. This was the peak point of the day as all of the searching had come to fruition at last. At the very first glance from afar, the ride was a wonder. It lay, snaking along the golden floor half buried in the leaves falling from above. All along the track trees had both grown up through it and also fallen down upon it. The iron tracks had snapped in several places and even had sections cut out to allow nature trails to pass through. But that didn’t keep them from exploring the track.

Most of the things discovered below are captured in picture more completely in the Gallery. The ride would have picked up speed descending what they estimated to be around a 60 degree angle at its steepest point. As the initial drop is coming down the hill the track banks left careening down the south side of Carlisle Hill. Here what is thought to have been a straightaway has taken on some large trees warping and snapping the track in several locations. Sadly, the ride hits a nature trail here and can be clearly seen that it was cleanly cut by a saw. However, tracing out the faint remains of the supports just peeking up past the carpet of leaves the ride seemed to trace out a fairly gentle curve here with the possibility of a run of unique turns. The track picks back up again at the north side of Carlisle Hill aimed back towards the station. Here is the steepest part of track which quickly plateaus just above the drop. This is the part of the ride that has also taken on the most new growth with trees sprouting up all throughout the space in the rails. This steep hill likely intended to send the riders back to where they came from leaving them settled at the end at the lowest point of the track. From there they likely would have manually pushed the car back up the hill for the next ride.

As one can see, Toboggan has taken a beating yet doesn’t fall down. Its robust nature evidenced by its survival is a testament to the unknown company who designed and manufactured it, because even after all of these years, Toboggan stands as Notre Dame’s home coaster.