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How entire buildings get wrapped for the Super Bowl

Jay Busbee
Mercedes-Benz Stadium, all prettied up. (Getty)
Mercedes-Benz Stadium, all prettied up. (Getty)

ATLANTA — Walk around Centennial Park in downtown Atlanta and you’ll see a fascinating sight: skyscrapers covered in stickers like a middle-schooler’s laptop. It takes you a second to grasp the immensity of what you’re looking at: a sticker hundreds of feet high and wide, large enough to cover your car, your house and your neighbor’s place with BUD LIGHT or the Lombardi Trophy.

We caught sight of these stickers — their proper term is “building wraps” — and had the same questions you do: who makes these things, and more importantly, who has the guts to get up there and hang them?

That’s a large Lombardi. (Getty)
That’s a large Lombardi. (Getty)

We hit up R.J. Orr, executive vice president of bluemedia, a large-format printer based in Arizona. They’ve had the big-ol’-sign contract (probably not its real name) with the NFL for five years, and they’re tasked with getting the wraps from the design stage to the side of the building.

“They’re basically big stickers,” Orr says. (See? I was right!) “They’re known as Perforated Window Vinyl, and they’re basically like tinting on a car window. They’re visible on the outside of the building, but they don’t block light coming into the building, so the people inside aren’t living in a cave.”

More Super Bowl wrapping. (Getty)
More Super Bowl wrapping. (Getty)

The procedure works like this: GMR Marketing, a design firm, creates the images based on the needs of the client — a Lombardi Trophy the size of a jumbo jet for the NFL, a knight that could stand eye-to-eye with a kaiju for Bud Light, and more. Then it’s bluemedia’s job to get those designs printed onto five-foot-wide rolls of the vinyl and, later, adhered to the outside of the building.

The vinyl is printed with an adhesive, so it’s literally just a matter of unrolling it and sticking it to the side of the building — just, you know, several hundred feet in the air. Most installations use a “swing stage” — you know, the little mobile ledges that window washers use — to apply the stickers right to the walls.

[Ditch the pen and paper on football’s biggest day. Go digital with Squares Pick’em!]

For rectangular efforts, the installation process takes anywhere from two to four days. The Bud Light Knight took about a week, thanks to its complex design. The design bends around a corner and includes a sword and a football, and a little planning was necessary to ensure that, say, the entire wrap didn’t peel off the side of the building for being applied improperly.

The Bud Light Knight watches over Atlanta. (Courtesy bluemedia)
The Bud Light Knight watches over Atlanta. (Courtesy bluemedia)

But none of the designs came anywhere close to the intricacy of the stickers on Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Because the full exterior of the stadium had never been wrapped before, Orr and others were on-site as early as August 2017 scouting options. Work took 14 days, and crews couldn’t lower down from the top with swing stages. Instead, they had to use — get this ‐ 185-foot-high lifts. That’s more than 18 stories up. More than one-fourth of the stadium — in excess of 100,000 square feet — was wrapped for the Super Bowl.

Orr won’t disclose how much these endeavors cost, saying only that it’s well into the six-figure range. Work to bring the wraps back down again starting Monday will take about half as long as it took to get them up. And then, come Miami in 2020, they’ll do it all over again.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.