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February 19, 2024 Startups, Technology & Innovation

Cheshire-based company builds broadcast stages, mobile sets for ESPN, MLB Network and Court TV; after recent sale, it has even higher ambitions

PHOTO | CONTRIBUTED Cheshire-based Creative Dimensions, now Pinnacle, creates studio sets for major television networks. The Dallas Cowboys football team has been a client.
Creative Dimensions/Pinnacle at a glance
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Cheshire-based Creative Dimensions is a growing company with humble beginnings that was recently acquired by a national experiential marketing agency, which could further raise the profile of its work.

The company is located in a nondescript, high-bay warehouse on McCausland Court in Cheshire, but its products have been seen by millions of sports fans and television viewers nationwide.

Joel Roy

Creative Dimensions was founded as a local sign manufacturer, but evolved into one of the top broadcast set design firms in the nation, said Joel P. Roy, who owned the company prior to its recent sale. Creative Dimensions has built broadcast stages and mobile sets seen on ESPN, MLB Network, YES Network and Court TV programs.

Other notable clients have included BIC, Dairy Queen, PepsiCo and IKEA, Roy said.

Creative Dimensions has also served numerous professional sports teams such as the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys, Las Vegas Raiders and Baltimore Ravens, as well as the United States Golf Association and Travelers Championship, for which it does all signage and decor, Roy said.

The company was recently acquired by Oregon-based experiential marketing firm Pinnacle, which has five other offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, North Carolina and now Connecticut.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Creative Dimensions is taking on the Pinnacle name.

The Cheshire location will serve as Pinnacle’s Hartford area headquarters, securing a key connection to the Northeast market, Pinnacle leaders said.

Roy, 63, said he wanted to sell Creative Dimensions as a path toward retirement, a decision that came into sharper focus during the pandemic.

Key to making the deal happen was a commitment by Pinnacle to maintain the Cheshire location and its employees, said Roy, who is staying on with the company for now as Pinnacle’s Hartford division president.

Humble beginnings, growth vision

Founded by Bill Violette in 1987, Creative Dimensions was then a three-person, custom-exhibit designer serving a few key customers, including Farmington-based Otis Elevator Co.

Roy founded a boutique sign shop called Ultra Graphics that designed, built and installed signs for clients such as Bristol-based theme park Lake Compounce.

Roy said he collaborated for years with Violette on many projects until the two companies merged in 1992 as Creative Dimensions; Violette eventually retired.

Much of Creative Dimensions’ work early on focused on making signs and trade-show exhibits, but Roy said he focused on trying to differentiate the company from competitors.

It wasn’t until a partnership with ESPN, and the emergence of high-definition television, that Creative Dimensions got on the map.

Roy said he noticed that sports broadcast sets suddenly looked shabby on HD TV channels, and with ESPN right down the road, he collaborated with the Bristol-based sports media giant on building a higher-quality set.

Creative Dimensions also invented a product called the Versa desk, which can be assembled and dismantled quickly without any power tools or pieces “getting lost on the 50-yard line.”

The trademarked design creates sets that can be stored in a travel case and accommodate up to five people. It features swappable fabric graphics, with options for dimensional signs and sponsor panels.

“Because we know how things go apart and ship, and because you can’t have a 12-foot-wide desk that goes in the front door, you have to build it in parts,” Roy said. “So, our knowledge of exhibits led us to make efficient set pieces for television for sports sets.”

Contributed
A sign for the Travelers Championship, an annual golf tournament on the PGA Tour, held at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell.

Creative Dimensions built Versa desks for ESPN, and took the product to a broadcasting trade show in Las Vegas, where it caught on. The company soon got hundreds of orders and took on more high-profile clients — broadcast and mobile sets grew to 50% of the business.

Over time, Creative Dimensions expanded from a 4,500-square-foot shop with seven workers to its current 73,000-square-foot Cheshire facility with 48 employees.

Roy declined to reveal the company’s revenues. It still does work on installations, exhibits and trade shows.

Cheshire Economic Development Director Andrew Martelli said Creative Dimensions has been an important part of the town’s business community. The company has produced signage for public buildings and town hall, he said.

“Creative Dimensions is the type of business you want in your community,” Martelli said. “Joel is an active part of our Manufactures Roundtable, and is always willing to talk to and integrate our Cheshire High School students who might be looking to get into the trades.”

The Pinnacle connection

Pinnacle is in a similar business. The 350-employee company said it has worked for more than 25 years in sports and entertainment marketing.

It creates live interactive exhibits, 3D-immersive event technology, and designs and builds customizable, prefabricated blocks that can be outfitted, shipped and installed for both indoor and outdoor events.

Pinnacle’s work can be found at major trade shows, music festivals and sporting events, including the Super Bowl, MLB All-Star games and university esports programs.

Brad Hogan

“Wherever brands have an opportunity to connect with their audience live, we’re there,” said Pinnacle CEO Brad Hogan.

Pinnacle’s clients include Sony PlayStation, Cannon and Amazon, along with other brands in the electronics, gaming, tech, automotive, fashion and medical industries.

The acquisition adds to Pinnacle’s capabilities in sports and entertainment marketing while expanding regionally to better serve customers in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, Hogan said.

Looking back and ahead

Roy said his decision to sell the company came shortly after the pandemic struck.

The exhibit industry, during the worst of the pandemic, took a major hit, and Creative Dimensions lost about 60% of its business. The company got some relief from a federal Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loan.

It was a challenging time that made Roy think about the need to secure his future, and the future of his company, he said.

He started looking at options to sell about two years ago. Key to any deal was finding a partner that would keep the Cheshire location and workforce.

Roy said he will stay on with Pinnacle for the foreseeable future to ensure a smooth transition.

“Pinnacle has some pretty big-time customers and our people are super talented, so I wanted to make sure that they have a job that maybe they never dreamed of,” Roy said. “To be out doing work at the Super Bowl, seeing the desks we build on TV at the Masters or at the World Series. I just felt like our group is super talented and that they were worthy of something bigger.”

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