“In the South, football is a religion, and Saturday is the holy day.”
That quote from Hall of Fame coach Marino Casem may be one of the best descriptions of the importance of college football in this region of the country. So when the stadium of one of the top teams in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) needed coatings work, the call went out for a painting contractor with a proven track record to handle the task.
That’s how Benise-Dowling & Associates, Inc. won the 2020 bid to paint Bobby Dodd Stadium at Georgia Tech’s historic Grant Field.
Established in 1978, Benise-Dowling employs more than 200 painters and has a wealth of experience working on stadiums and other demanding, high-profile commercial projects.
PPC sat down with Tony Benise and Curt Dowling, the president and vice president of the company, to learn more about the project.
Benise-Dowling has worked on numerous large, high-profile projects all across the country. How does that experience prepare you for a job like the Georgia Tech stadium?
Experience is critical when dealing with large commercial projects. Having been in the business for over 40 years has allowed our previous successes and failures to help develop “best practices” to ensure projects go as smoothly as possible. We have hundreds of years in experience in the field and office that provide guidance on large-scale projects.
The human element coupled with our historical database keeps the guess work out and the logic in.
Your résumé includes Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Stadium. Was that one of the first stadium jobs your company had done?
The Olympic Stadium was our first new ground-up stadium. However, we worked in several stadiums in the past doing refresh and reimage projects. Since then, we have continued the maintenance aspect and full repaints of several stadium projects across the southeast.
How did that help prepare you for future stadium projects like Bobby Dowd Stadium?
Projects of this scale require a team effort in the planning process, specifically in the schedule and estimating aspect – this is where our experience comes to the forefront. We were on site several times with our field estimating crew measuring, taking photos, etc. to ensure we did not miss any substrate that needed to be addressed.
Once we settle on footages, we then break out quadrants followed by additional breakouts within each quadrant estimating completion time to create a schedule that works collectively with our customer and within our constraints. Once we’re satisfied, we take the detailed presentation to the client for review and discussion.
Your management team is recognized for thinking “outside the box.” What kind of creative approach does a job of this scope require?
Stadiums are all unique and there are several nuances that require you to be creative in painting the hard-to-reach areas. You may have to reach an area from a lift one day and the next section will require swing stages. All this is based on the numerous configurations of these stadiums.
What were the major challenges of this particular project?
Stadiums are typically multi-purpose sites and Bobby Dodd is no exception. Creating a schedule that is out six-plus months with both planned and unplanned events, including weather delays, is the biggest hurdle. Rigging a stadium requires creative thinking on every side of the stadium. Finally, as all this value engineering is going on, we were hit with COVID-19 during the project. This unforeseen distraction required us to become very flexible while trying to maintain our planned schedule as we had a hard close for the fall football season.
It looks like this project required a real team effort from a number of players including the university, your paint supplier and everyone at your company. What has been the most rewarding part of this job for you and your workers?
Everyone involved was very proud of the finished product. Every time we met with our Georgia Tech contacts John Tweedy and Jim Kenyon, they would talk about their peers in the athletic administration stating how great the transformation looked. Our favorite moment was the first time we saw the stadium on national TV and got to boast to all that we were part of the reimaging of this iconic stadium.
This job required a wide variety of coatings. What role did your paint supplier play in determining the best products for this job?
The Sherwin-Williams team had a large part in defining the proper specification due to the fact that there was no advance specification. Sherwin-Williams sales reps Aaron Bateman and Mark Perry and the Benise-Dowling team collaborated and found the best product for every substrate with two to three options based on price and durability.
What condition was the stadium in and what kind of surface prep was needed?
Bobby Dodd Stadium was built in 1913 so, as you can imagine, there were areas that required special attention regarding preparation prior to application. Prep is the most critical part of any paint project large or small and we pride ourselves in the understanding that this will make or break a paint job. This large job had extensive prep including SSPC-SP3 surface preparation requirements for much of the steel. Fortunately for our team, we have extensive understanding of surface prep so we stayed on schedule during the prep process.
Loxon® Self-Cleaning Acrylic Coating was used extensively on this project. Had you used this product before?
Yes. We were part of the trials when the product was getting developed at Sherwin- Williams. We still have the test boards in our warehouse.
What attributes does it have that made it right for this job?
The name says it all: “self cleaning.” Georgia Tech was looking for a product that would maintain its freshness over other product lines and this product was exactly what they were looking for.
Several other Loxon products were also specified. Is this a product line that works well for you?
We do extensive work on Florida’s Emerald Coast. This area is one of the harshest environments we work in. Loxon has always delivered so we knew it would work at the stadium.
What were the other main coatings that helped make this job a success?
Were there some other specific ways that your paint supplier helped you on this job?
First, with the steel system, our Sherwin-Williams team came out every step of the way and performed adhesion tests throughout. This gave the Georgia Tech team confidence in both the product from Sherwin-Williams and the applicator Benise-Dowling. Finally, the color renderings provided by Sherwin-Williams to Georgia Tech were definitely a positive and professional portion of the reimage.
There were no advance specifications for this job, so color was not defined. Having the ability to put the stadium on a big screen and discuss and change colors in different areas truly helped the stadium look the way it does today.
Anything you didn’t anticipate going into this job?
As with all projects, situations happen that are not planned. Always remember to keep your field team positive as they represent your company every day in the field in front of the customer you have worked so hard to keep. Any contractor can do one job with a client. It’s the repeat business that keeps businesses thriving for decades. Take care of your people and take care of your customer and good things will happen year over year.
This article was originally published in the Spring 2021 issue of PPC magazine. Story by Mike Starling, PPC Editor. Photography courtesy Benise-Dowling and Georgia Tech University. Read about other successful painting projects in the PPC magazine archive.