In the sports industry, everything happens fast. So when the National Hockey League (NHL) needed signage for the 2013 Stanley Cup championship game in Boston, AMI Graphics had only days to seam and weld more than 2,200 square feet of solid vinyl and mesh banners.
No problem, says AMI president and owner Peter Wensberg. Since 1996, AMI has pulled off elaborate projects for high-profile events and organizations such as the Boston Marathon, the NBA, NASCAR and the Grammy Awards. The company has grown exponentially since its initial collaboration with amusement parks, which are still customers of the Strafford, N.H., business.
“We really started out as a marketing firm and were buying a lot of signage to execute our marketing plans within these amusement parks,” Wensberg recalls. “Internally, we felt we could probably make these signs and create them ourselves instead of having to buy them, and so we bought a printer and a few things to get started and learned the business the hard way.”
(Above) Abby Thorn, an AMI employee, trims an NHL pole graphic. (Left) Tim Nichols, another AMI employee, seams an NHL banner.
After 17 years, Wensberg and AMI Graphics continue to build highly successful and long-term relationships with major brands. The company has mastered sports and facility signage and is the official supplier for the Boston Bruins, the New Jersey Devils and other franchises. For several professional and collegiate arenas and stadiums nationwide, AMI manufactures indoor and outdoor facility signage, wall murals, scoreboard signage, floor graphics, banners and various other products. The company works with a wide range of sports markets including hockey, baseball, basketball, skiing and racing.
Actually, Wensberg points out, AMI does “everything from retail point of purchase displays, trade show work, events and sports facility signage and vehicle signage. But our main business is within the sports industry.”
No matter the market, there’s one sure thing about working in sports: there’s always a tight deadline. There is no room for delays, especially for events like the NHL championship, where contenders are decided just before the final games.
On June 7, the Bruins played their last playoff game before qualifying for the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals versus the Blackhawks. The games began June 12 in Chicago. Meanwhile, back in Boston, AMI Graphics was prepping TD Garden (known simply as “The Garden”) and surrounding hotels for three games of the best-of seven series.
Having already taken on a Stanley Cup project once before, Wensberg was confident his staff could pull it off in the short time (the Bruins were coming back to Boston on June 17) that was allowed for production, installation and tear-down. AMI created outdoor banners for the 755,000-square-foot arena, as well as decorations in and around nearby hotels.
“The NHL is a very demanding customer; they expect the best,” Wensberg says. “The applications varied in size and shape. We had to go down and do some pre-site work, understand where everything was going, size it up correctly, make sure we had the proper installation people in place, and [it was] all done in a very small window [of time].”
While the NHL created the logo design, AMI employees seam-welded banners, some as large as 150 by 50 feet, at the shop’s production room in New Hampshire. Despite the impressive client roster and years of experience, Wensberg admits there are challenges with every project, and for the Stanley Cup Final, timing and efficiency was critical.
“You have to wait for playoffs to end to determine who’s in the finals, so depending on who’s in the finals, that’s the artwork you’re going to receive. With sports in general, and even with the bigger sports facilities that we work with across the country, they tend to change sponsorships throughout the year. And the moment they sign or re-sign a new sponsor, they want the signs up right away.”
For the Bruins job, Wensberg relied exclusively on Leister vinyl welders to run continuously at least 12 hours a day, five days a week. A Leister VARIANT T1 seamer and five Leister UNIPLAN hot-air welders were used to manufacture the banners. The VARIANT, which can weld up to 59 feet per minute, was used for both seam and hem welding, while the UNIPLANs were used for hem welding.
Additionally, Wensberg says, “We used an outdoor mesh product, seamed them together with our Leister welders, reinforced the edges and used high-wind grommets on all the banners. They have to withstand the elements.”
In the end, Boston lost the 2013 Stanley Cup in Game Six, when the Blackhawks topped the Bruins, scoring two goals in 17 seconds and with 76 seconds left.
Hardly two days later, the signage that AMI Graphics worked tirelessly to produce was a distant memory for disappointed Boston fans. But, Wensberg says, the project was a triumph for AMI Graphics and its staff of 34.
“Pulling together all these pieces and parts, and making it happen in a quick and efficient manner, I think really speaks volumes about our team here at AMI,” Wensberg says. “And we have great vendors; they’re close by, and we get things quickly, but creating and pulling all these pieces together really comes down to the team here.”