Signs of the Times Magazine – Florida depends on your tourism dollars to fuel its economy, and signs play a key role in creating a welcoming atmosphere. The Bill Edwards Group, a St. Petersburg, FL real-estate developer, hired Thomas Sign & Awning Co., Inc. (Clearwater, FL) to fabricate a towering entry sign to attract visitors to Florida’s “Sunshine City.”
Bar-Fab of Florida and United Steel Works, Inc., constructed the support structure with 3,000 linear ft. of structural steel. Hennessey Construction built the sign’s foundation utilizing Geo Tech boring drills and heavy-duty auger-drilling and concrete-pumping equipment. Eighteen, 2-ft.-diameter, 35-40-foot-deep caisson columns with rebar reinforcements encircle and bind the structure for volatile coastal weather. More than 35,000 sq. ft. of sod was required to fill in the massive foundation. The job entailed MIG-welding the main tower structure and it’s bracing reinforcements. According to Thomas Sign & Awning Co.’s Kevin Hunsicker, the sign is rated for 150-mph wind load – a necessity in hurricane-prone coastal areas.
Thomas Sign & Awning Co.’s Director of Design developed the artwork and copy with Adobe Illustrator software and devised the structure using SAP 3000 engineering and AutoCAD drafting software. The manufacturing shop, led by Todd Thomas, fabricated the sign’s exterior aluminum elements on its MultiCam 3000 CNC router, and built the vertical text on three sides with routed-out 0.090-in.-thick aluminum panels, with second-surface push-through letters decorated with plotter-cut translucent 3M vinyl. A synthetic stucco finish was then applied to the tower for an additional texture and appearance.
The sign features a Fulham induction-lighting system, which was chosen for its low-power consumption, ability to light more quickly (with less warm-up time than HID systems), and brighter, more consistently luminescent white coloration. Four, multi-fixture LEDs highlight the tower’s dome. The entire sign draws 40 AMPS at 277 Volts. The power source was pulled from more than 1,500 lineal ft. away, and had to be bored under the interstate to deliver it to the location.
Hunsicker said the foundation, engineering, and the DOT-permitting process proved challenging; with multiple DOT agencies contacted for authorization. An electric tower being installed only 100 ft. from the water’s edge is bound to require stringent approval. And, ironically, a skyscraping tower encountered a low-lying nemesis.
“The area where we installed the tower is infested with rattlesnakes,” Hunsicker said. “We inspected the job site closely every morning to make sure we had no unwanted visitors.”
From the manufacturing floor to the final installation of the tower’s brass-colored dome took Thomas Sign and Awning Co. 140 days to complete. Tower signs often become landmarks – and this 75 foot landmark clearly defines that you have entered the beautiful city of St. Petersburg – Signage Accomplished!
About the author: Steve Aust is Signs of the Times Senior Associate Editor. A member of its editorial staff since 2000, his work emphasizes vinyl graphics, architectural and environmental graphics, and 3-D signage.