When the Chicago White Sox needed help in a pinch, the team at regional coatings contractor Armored Floors stepped up to the plate and proved to be quite a hit!
Several years prior, the baseball club’s business managers had proposed opening a restaurant and sports bar adjacent to their home park, U.S. Cellular Field. When Chi-Sox Bar & Grill launched in April 2011, then named Bacardi at the Park, fans were thrilled to finally have a fun place to hang out near the stadium, both before and after games.
To no surprise, the long-awaited restaurant was initially a home run. But all of the success offered one drawback: The restaurant became so much of a hit that heavy foot traffic began to crush the original concrete design of the flooring.
Excessive Early Walks
“The original stained concrete was not holding up to the large volume of traffic in the restaurant,” said Char Plaia, project manager at Armored Floors. “They were looking for a decorative, yet durable floor finish that would be fitting for the showcase restaurant.”
The challenge was that this project had to be completed during the season! The extent of the damage and continued heavy foot traffic on game days meant that waiting until offseason downtime was not an option.
So when the White Sox went on a week-long road trip to the West Coast in the middle of August 2015, the crew at Armored Floors stepped up to the plate and quickly went to work.
“I’m a diehard fan, so this was a very cool gig to get,” Plaia said.
Leading Off the Home Frame
Based outside Chicago in Naperville, Illinois, Armored Floors was a natural fit as the lead contractor. With 18 employees, the company services all of Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan, offering a wide variety of services including polymer, staining, and polishing, as well as crack repairs on concrete.
This project entailed coating 5,700 square feet (529.5 m²) at the restaurant, with seven crew members striving to complete the work within four days. This would enable the restaurant to re-open when the White Sox returned home the following week.
“We had to do it when the Sox were out of town, and we had to be absolutely sure we had everything done by the time they returned home,” Plaia said.
Certified installer Tamara Johnson of Armored Floors worked with Chris Wesolowski, a representative from coatings manufacturer Thermal-Chem, to assess the flooring requirements for the job. After a review, the duo recommended using Thermal-Chem’s 787 DecoEssence in antique leather with a matte finish.
“This decorative epoxy flooring system contains a metallic pigment to produce a unique, three-dimensional look with incredible depth and vibrancy,” said Ray Hurley, marketing manager with Thermal-Chem. “The 100-percent solids seamless system is impervious to moisture and provides a durable floor surface that requires minimal maintenance.”
Wesolowski and Johnson also recommended the addition of ThermalGrip, a fine particle, light anti-skid additive for enhanced slip resistance. Since beverages are a big part of the ballpark experience for many fans, preparing for spilled liquids on the floor was a must!
With those recommendations in mind, Plaia’s crew at Armored Floors knew it was time to step up and complete the job.
Wearing eyewear, ear plugs, headsets, boots, and 3M half-face reusable respirators as safety protection, crew members prepped the concrete floor on the first day by grinding and shotblasting to remove the existing finish. The grinding was completed by using a concrete floor grinder from Husqvarna Construction Products, while the shotblasting system was from Blastrac.
But before the crew could begin applying a prime coat on that first day, they had to solve an unexpected challenge. With the work occurring on a hot, humid summer day, air conditioning (AC) was a must — and not just for the comfort level of the crew. Unfortunately, the use of air vents led to unintended consequences.
“The vents were blowing stuff out and onto the floor,” Plaia said. “We couldn’t turn the AC off, because then the coats wouldn’t cure due to the high humidity.” She added, “So we had to have them redirect the air flow.”
Once the air flow problem was fixed, the crew began coating by applying the ArmorPrime Product 726, a black, pigmented prime coat from Thermal-Chem. By squeegeeing and back rolling, the primer was applied at 160 to 180 square feet per gallon (14.9–16.7 m² per L) and allowed to cure overnight.
On each subsequent project day, the crew began its mornings by sanding and vacuuming the floor to ensure a sterile environment for the application of the next coat. With the primer in place on day two, crew members then applied the 787 DecoEssence metallic coat at 80 square feet per gallon (7.4 m² per L). It also cured overnight.
When the crew returned on the third day, they top-coated the floor with Thermal-Chem’s DecoFinish E65 M, a “green” urethane topcoat with a matte finish. Applied at 300 square feet per gallon (27.9 m² per L), the DecoFinish E65 M is often used as a clear topcoat over epoxy floors in heavily-trafficked areas, where long-lasting abrasion resistance and gloss-retention is needed. After several hours of application, the crew also broadcast into the topcoat the ThermalGrip anti-skid additive to rejection before leaving for the night.
Closing Out a Win
Because Armored Floors was well aware of the high activity surrounding a restaurant at a baseball stadium, they added a second application of the urethane topcoat on the fourth day before concluding their work.
And with that, the White Sox scored a win, as Armored Floors was able to reopen the restaurant by the time the team returned home the following week.
“They absolutely loved it,” Plaia said. “They actually liked it so much that they brought us back, and we got to redo their Bullpen Sports Bar this year. All in all, for a job that size and with all the different things we had to deal with, it really went very well.”
“What we’ve heard from fans through the years is they would like more places to go before and after White Sox games,” said Brooks Boyer, vice president and chief marketing officer with the Chicago White Sox. “We built a vibrant atmosphere that fans can enjoy for years to come.”