ArsenalFX: Committed to Serving this Community
Planning an event of any size can create challenges. When one is planning a gala event or party designed to host hundreds of people, the challenges are magnified, especially when one is doing so in a community where professional, top-quality event production services must be brought in from other communities in order to make the event a success. Trevor Watson of ArsenalFX, a relatively new company on the scene in Fort McMurray, knows this well as a former performer with a popular magic and comedy act that even visited Edinburgh for the world-famous Fringe Festival held there annually. It’s one of the reasons Trevor and the team at ArsenalFX began to offer their services in the Wood Buffalo region, because they knew what was needed was a local company that could provide professional calibre audio, visual, event production and management services, as well as full event décor and design, and avoid the need to contract companies from outside the region.
Says Watson: “As an entertainer myself in Fort McMurray I recognized the need for event production services. Regardless of the scale of event, if you require anything more than small speakers event organizers need to truck it in from Edmonton or Calgary. It became a hurdle for some of the events we were involved in, and that was the beginning of looking to develop a business to address the need.”
ArsenalFX, now in business for over two years, has just moved into an expansive 6,500 square foot space in downtown Fort McMurray, allowing the business to store all their equipment in one location as well as be close to the urban centre where most of the events they support are hosted.
“The ArsenalFX team came together as we realized some events were being delayed or even cancelled because audio visual gear had been delayed making it into town from other locations due to weather or highway closures. That’s when we made the shift into looking at providing audio visual services locally and enable event planners and organizers to avoid the difficulties and additional expense of contracting companies from outside the community for their events,” says Watson.
Audio-visual effects are a critical component in successful events, although they are occasionally overlooked. The presence of good quality audio and visual elements guarantees an audience or event attendees will be engaged in the experience, perhaps not even noticing when an event is hosted in a setting that may be slightly different than the normal gala atmosphere.
This was true when ArsenalFX provided not only the audio and visual effects for the 2014 Northern Lights Health Foundation Festival of Trees held at Nexen Energy Field House at MacDonald Island Park but also the event décor and design as well. Covering the field house floor entirely in carpeting was a significant investment of resources and time on the part of the ArsenalFX team, but in conjunction with elaborate lighting and décor set the stage for an event where attendees at the annual Festival of Trees gala were able to forget that their surroundings normally host sports such as volleyball and badminton.
“ArsenalFX has grown so rapidly in the two years we have been in operation,” says Watson. “We could have never really predicted that, except we did know the exceptional opportunity and potential in this region and the strong demand for the services we are able to bring to the community.”
The decision to invest in premium quality equipment was a big one, but to the ArsenalFX team it only made sense. “The big scale events were the ones having to truck this equipment in for their events. This added to their event costs as well, particularly for those organizations hosting fundraiser type events where they need to keep the costs in line in order to ensure the event is a success. By having this equipment we can help them save on that bottom line, avoiding the costs of trucking the equipment in, paying for hotels and meals for operators – they can use a local company instead,” Watson adds.
“The decision we have made to invest in ArsenalFX – and we have invested a great deal into this business – is one that has made us all very happy. We receive so much gratitude from event organizers who have been looking at downscaling or even cancelling events because they can no longer afford the high production costs of bringing in out of town companies. When we can come in and provide them with an even higher calibre of service and equipment than what they had at half the price they were paying – well, the gratitude we get from our clients is remarkable. We feel like we are providing a service of significant value,” Watson says proudly of the achievements of ArsenalFX.
While initially ArsenalFX was primarily dedicated to the audio and visual aspects of event production, they began to explore the world of event décor and design with the 2014 Northern Lights Health Foundation Festival of Trees, which presented some challenges given that the same field house used during the day for the public to view the decorated trees needed to be transformed in just a few hours into a party atmosphere for the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party one evening, and the annual Festival of Trees gala the following evening.
“Making each event distinct and different was a challenge,” says Watson. “In addition to the evening events there was also the Ladies Luncheon. We had about 600 feet of truss and about 20 chain motors so we could create a drop ceiling in the field house. This, along with the carpeted floor and the modern furniture, created the elegant décor we were seeking to provide. Flipping the room was done in a few hours in the middle of the night to ensure as one event ended we could have it ready for tree viewing the next morning, which meant we pretty much had an 8-person team on duty for 24 hours every day during the event. Out of all the events we have ever done, the Festival of Trees was undoubtedly the one that required the most organization and planning in order to create the right atmosphere and guarantee success for our client.”
In March of 2015, ArsenalFX was honoured to provide the event production for the very first event at the Grand Ballroom at Shell Place. The Northern Lights Health Foundation Spring Fling marked the first gala held at the new expansion at MacDonald Island Park, but the brand new space created its own challenges.
“It was exciting to be the first and we are very proud of that,” says Watson. “But being the first also means we were in an environment no one had worked in before, so we had to figure out the audio and visual production aspects, as well as the décor, very independently as it was an entirely new space to everyone.”
More than just a business, though, ArsenalFX is committed to the community of the Wood Buffalo region and exploring ways they can support local initiatives and performing artists, such as musicians.
The ArsenalFX team is passionate about the local music scene, particularly given the strong talent the scene encompasses. “We have found ways with private sponsors to help us send out our audio technician and sound system to local gigs so they can truly shine and showcase their talent and skill with the benefit of professional quality sound,” explains Watson.
One key factor crucial to the success of ArsenalFX is their commitment to social profit community causes. Over the past two years the team has donated approximately $100,000 in production services to local community events, benefitting organizations such as the Justin Slade Youth Foundation and the Boys and Girls Club. The team at ArsenalFX feels this is a vital part of being a local business, and that giving back to the community is an important facet of being a good corporate citizen in the Wood Buffalo region.
“The glory of ArsenalFX is seeing the impact our business and team has on the community,” says Watson. “A lot of the events we produce – we can see the effect our work is having right there. There are so many different organizations and groups that can benefit from our services – from small private events like weddings and family reunions to huge galas. And then there are the social profit events where we offer our services free of charge – just so we can help them to achieve their goals and succeed. Yes, we are a business – but ArsenalFX is a local business and we are committed to serving this community. It’s a good feeling.”