Floor graphics are used in innovative ways, whether as a wayfinding tool or as a unique method of utilizing an environment with minimal space. In sports especially, much of the viewing takes place from above. Spectators simultaneously look onto a field, rink, or court while they watch players. These floors are blank canvases prime for promotion.
Praters Flooring capitalizes on sporting graphics. The firm began in 1990 as a full-service flooring company. Today, its 45 employees are dispersed between an office in Chattanooga, TN and a portable basketball renovation facility in Rossville, GA.
Praters Hardwood Flooring—one of three divisions—offers hardwood flooring products to residential flooring contractors and homeowners. Its second division—Praters Athletic Flooring—provides sports floor installation and renovation services for primary and secondary schools, FIBA, the NCAA, NBA, WNBA, and event work for high-profile corporations.
The third division of the company derived from the second. In 2001, Praters invested in its first vinyl cutter. The plan was to make gym floor painting easier by utilizing vinyl as a stencil tool. “We had no intention at that time to sell outside the company,” admits Mark Frainie, creative director, Praters Flooring.
However, word of mouth led to a half a dozen other gym floor contractors requesting Praters for design and stencil services. The result was the beginning of Praters Design. Established in 2003, today it provides the entire Praters family of companies with all graphic needs in addition to working with close to 100 other gym floor contractors in Canada and the U.S.
Praters Design offers logo design, gym floor layouts, and stencils for internal and external customers. Adding to its portfolio of services in 2006 and to complement the vinyl cutter was its first large format digital printer, which enables the production of printed decals for more short-term opportunities such as tournaments and special events.
“It allows us to reach out to other contractors and vendors in our industry as well as corporations and event planners. The response is tremendous. Our graphic capabilities have led to us securing many high-profile projects,” explains Frainie.
For the painting of logos and lettering, Praters relies on ORAFOL Americas’ ORAMASK 813 Stencil Film. Since the stencil is temporary, care must be taken to avoid damaging the hardwood floors. The 3-mil PVC film features a low-tack adhesive that is ideal for this scenario. Additionally, the film is rigid, eliminating stretch to make application much easier. Its transparency also assists in aligning stencils and initial positioning.
Temporary decal work, which is printed on a Roland DGA Corporation SOLJET PRO III XC-540 with Roland Eco-Sol MAX ink, utilizes ORAFOL’s ORAJET 3268 Wall Art Digital. Its repositionability and removability is essential to the short-term requirements of the application, in addition to its durability and print quality, cites Frainie. The 6-mil calendered PVC film features a low-tack adhesive.
Short term is the name of the game for Praters—as stencils are removed as soon as the paint dries and the decals are only installed to last for a few games.
Head in the Game
Praters recently worked with the Hartford, CT-based XL Center, home of the University of Connecticut’s (UConn’s) women’s and men’s basketball teams as well as the venue for countless concerts, family shows, trade shows, and ice skating shows.
The teams—familiarly referred to as the Huskies—recently went through realignment and once part of the Big East Conference, the athletic organization is now in the American Athletic Conference. As such, UConn changed its logo and the XL Center needed to resurface the floor to reflect the new conference and brand.
In a time span of two months, Praters’ team worked with UConn to gather the correct design elements—logos, color, branding—to create the imagery for the floor. Once decided upon, the final graphic was painted onto the hardwood floor with the assistance of ORAFOL’s ORAMASK 813 Stencil Film.
This particular gym floor will stay in place for awhile, according to Frainie. He explains that premier universities such as UConn typically re-sand hardwood floors every two to four years.