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A Titanic Undertaking

Fast Signs of St. Petersburg Tackles Tight Deadlines and Tough Surfaces

by Thomas Franklin

4 of a 4 Part Series

In the book Discovering the Laws of Life by the famous investor John M. Templeton, we learn that "success feeds on itself" and creates more success. Gary Lucke’s experience at TN-based LP Field is certainly a confirmation of Templeton’s axiom.

Lucke, who has owned a Fast Signs franchise in St. Petersburg, FL for the past ten years, completed a major project at Tropicana Field—home of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays—for a firm that redesigns stadium stores and interiors. Having successfully produced and installed over 5,000 square feet of vinyl graphics once, the firm doubled down on Lucke’s Fast Signs for a new project—to outfit LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans—with an array of interior and exterior graphics.

The centerpiece of the effort was a 40x41-foot graphic on an exterior wall of the stadium. Instead of using mesh vinyl, however, Lucke decided instead to employ 3M’s Textured Surface Film IJ 8624 on the stadium’s form poured concrete walls. He had used it for the first time at Tropicana Stadium and was pleased with the results.

"I remember when my sales rep came into the store to show it to me and I thought it would be a good fit for that job," Lucke explains.

Unfortunately, at the precise moment the Titans job came in, no dealer in Tampa had any of the film in stock. "We drove to Orlando to get it and had a special delivery of several rolls over-nighted," he relates.

The frenetic pace would only continue. Lucke received a CorelDraw file from the creative team designing the graphic but the centerpiece image of Titan’s Quarterback Vince Young was too low resolution to suit the dimensions of the wrap. The team’s photographer was quickly summoned to snap a new image during a pre-season game. "We’re now in the 11th hour with this photographer running around trying to get the perfect shot," Lucke says. The final file—weighing in at 3.6GB—was received on September 8th.

"From that point," Lucke recounts, "we were printing day and night." There were a number of additional graphics produced for the job as well.

Using a 64-inch Seiko ColorPainter solvent printer, Lucke produced the graphic as a series of nine, 51-inch panels and a one, 30-inch panel on 3M’s film. The bottom of the graphic was to be placed 150 inches from the ground and given the length it had to travel from top to bottom, Lucke afforded himself 1.8 inches worth of overlap "in case we started wandering" during the installation. "And we did, but just a little," he admits.

After letting the ink out gas, the printed film was laminated using 3M’s 8524 overlaminate on a 72-inch Ding Laminator. "The two, working in combination, really produced an awesome graphic," Lucke states. The laminate itself is the trickiest part of working with the new substrate, as it can be less forgiving, but it’s not difficult to master with experience, Lucke relays.

Because they were operating under a tight deadline, Lucke personally flew the graphics to TN, checking in seven, 54-inch boxes at the airport. "Security definitely gave us some weird looks," he laughs, "especially when they saw the applicator."

Lucke arrived in TN on the morning of the 12th. Working in tandem with two installers affiliated with the stadium, Lucke set to work. 3M’s Textured Surface Film is adhesive backed and is applied using the firm’s heat resistant texture surface applicator TSA-1. The panels were hinged at that top and were unraveled slowly as the adhesive back was pressed into the concrete. Using a digital heat gun to control the temperature, Lucke affixed the graphic.

"The film fits into every little crack, and the result is very smooth," Lucke explains.

On the 45-foot knuckle lift swaying under the persistent breeze, Lucke "squeegeed every square inch." Working at a breakneck pace of 47 hours in three days—including one, 20-hour day—the job was completed on the 14th. "We were definitely bleary-eyed," Lucke says.

While Lucke still sees a role for mesh vinyl in many future projects, he envisions using the textured surface vinyl for a number of large graphics. "There is so much it can be put on." What’s needed, he says, is to educate the market. "I think a lot of customers don’t realize that these surfaces are now approachable."

Click here to read Part 1 of this exculsive online series,
Invest for Success
Click here to read Part 2 of this exculsive online series, Profiting From Wraps
Click here to read Part 3 of this exculsive online series,
Conducting the Wrap

Nov2007, Digital Output

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