Whether you’ve wrapped a thousand stadiums or just a handful, there’s always something new to learn. There’s always new mistakes to make because there’s always unexpected challenges you’ll face. The key is learning from them and applying them to your next job.
That’s what Gary Lucke, owner of a Fast Signs franchise in St. Petersburg, always does. He’s wrapped a fair share of stadiums in his day, but he says each job offers some new twist, something to learn from, something to challenge his thinking and creativity and that’s just the way he likes it.
LP Field in Nashville, Tenn. is a prime example. LP Field is home to the Tennessee Titans NFL franchise. It seats about 68,000 fans in a state-of-the-art, open-air facility located on 105 acres on the east bank of the Cumberland River overlooking downtown Nashville.
LP Field was designed and built by HOK Sport + Venue + Event, the world’s leading sports architecture firm; a firm that very well understands the need to maximize the facility for every function, from seating to retail to advertising.
LP Field has 175 corporate suites, two 25,000-square-foot club lounges, 60 concession stands, three locker rooms, four suite elevators, and a state-of-the-art press box. That leaves plenty of room for wrapping, and Lucke’s firm decided to tackle the project. Let’s find out how he did it.
The Simplicity of Labeling
As Lucke describes it, most of the art for the Tennessee Titan project was project-specific from a production standpoint. In other words, the skills required were standard vinyl wrapping skills. But there were some interesting potential fumbles for installers who don’t have an eye for detail.
That’s because the design was especially repetitive in the team store for the beam wraps. It was like an orange pigskin texture that spanned all the beams in the retail area. The panels had to look uniform. So there’s a lesson here for vinyl installers who are dealing with repetitive designs: it may seem like a no-brainer, but mis-ordered panels can cause a major foul.
“We had to match all the seams. So from a technical standpoint, you have stay very, very organized. You stay more organized in how you label the panels and with the physical handling of the panels,” Lucke says.
“We made big mistakes there because we were trying to match the panels, but we couldn’t easily get them to go up there in a uniform manner,” he admits. “Eventually, all the panels looked the same. That’s how we learned to label them more carefully and handle them cautiously so they don’t get out of order.”
Getting a 3D Vision
Lucke also learned to get what he calls a “3D vision” of the project during the surveying stage. He’s gotten good at honing in on issues, like repetitive designs, that could cause major time, labor and material wastes on a job. During the survey process, he determines how he physically needs to handle the media to get it onto the wall.
At LP Field, Lucke’s team had to install large murals. There was an extension showing about 12 feet from the ground. Ultimately the top of the mural was 42 feet in the air. That could have bred confusion if he hadn’t done the site survey. Because he understood the challenge of installing a mural of that size and that height, he purposely chose to make a break in the vinyl at the 12-foot mark.
“We installed the panels using double lifts a knuckle lift above and a scissor lift below. We had one person at the bottom and another person at the top,” he recalls. “I was on the top of the left most of the time. As we started down the panel, I only had an inch overlap on the panel. Running that length, the vinyl can sway right or left. You can imagine the scene.”
Breaking the vinyl at the 12-foot mark helped tremendously, but it was still a challenge. Lucke’s team overcome by having the person at the bottom hold the vinyl still as another person pealed off the backing paper bit by bit.
“I suppose you could probably tape it down there but sometimes you need to work at it one way or the other and so that was the technique that we used there because it gave us more flexibility,” Lucke says. “Would I do it again the same way? I think I would there, but some applications I would do differently.”
Gauging Installation Times
Lucke has also learned plenty of other lessons in the various stadium wraps he’s tackled. While much of it comes down to common sense you need to watch the weather report before you send out a four-main crew and rent lifts other lessons come from experience. Gauging file preparation and vinyl installation times is one of them.
“The file preparation is time consuming,” Lucke says. “One file of Vince Young was a gig and a half compressed a JPEG. It takes a lot of horsepower to crunch these large files. You have to do your proposals with an eye toward production because it takes a lot longer to produce the art onto vinyl than you think.”
Lucke hasn’t removed any of the wraps he’s completed yet. 3M has assured him, however, that it’s as easy as taking a heat gun to the vinyl and peeling it back off. “3M has designed its film to be adhesive and more aggressive when you put it on but they have designed that film to be very removable when you take it off,” he says. “So you get the best of both worlds.”
Lucke still doesn’t offer any guarantees to customers about how long the wrap will last. A stadium can be a rough environment, with literally millions of visitors each year. The wear and tear exceeds most of other types of commercial wraps. But he says the vinyl is holding well so far.
“I went back to LP Field a few months after the installation and the vinyl looked like it went up a week earlier,” Lucke says. “Moisture is the enemy. I tell the stadium owners to be careful about moisture. It’s not a good idea to wrap walls that seep natural moisture. I haven’t seen any problems, but we are very careful about moisture.”
As seen on signindustry.com.