The Great Escape

An illuminated icon locks down the appeal of this amazing venue.
La Crosse Sign Group (Onalaska, WI) carried out the Booby Trap Escape Rooms client’s vision to enter his venue through a giant electric padlock-maze icon.

Every summer, when tourists flock to the Wisconsin Dells area in south central Wisconsin, the small community of around 6,000 explodes. To better compete for tourist dollars, one local business owner built an escape room on property he owned in a popular area of town. Have you heard of these? The concept is to get locked in a room with a few friends and try to solve clues that will unlock the door before your hour is up.

The owner needed a visual icon on his building (still under construction) that would make a statement, attract customers and also add an element of intrigue as you walked through the door. He envisioned a giant padlock with a maze built within the lock on the front of his building. The problem was, he had no idea how to get it built. After reviewing ideas with several contractors about building the lock out of fiberglass or other similar materials and placing visible chaser lights on the face of the maze, the owner felt unenthusiastic with all of them. He then reached out to La Crosse Sign Group (Onalaska, WI), which had fabricated other iconic signs in the Dells area. As a sign consultant working for La Crosse, I met with the owner to discuss building a lighted 28-ft.-tall padlock. 

A BRIGHT IDEA

After looking at the concept, drafted on the building’s elevation blueprints and knowing that the owner wanted a sign that would come to life at night, I showed him a sample of a programmable RGB LED. I described how he could change the colors with a color wheel, and have it sequence either manually through multi-colors or automatically on its own through color sequences.

Lining up the clear polycarbonate pieces with the aluminum backer panel to make sure all the mounting holes fit correctly.
Lining up the clear polycarbonate pieces with the aluminum backer panel to make sure all the mounting holes fit correctly.

After we detailed how placing LEDs behind a halo-lit channel-letter-style of fabrication – with the lighting hidden during the day but shining brightly at night – the owner was won over and ready to move forward. La Crosse graphic designer Brian Anderson then turned the concept into an actual, buildable design so that the owner could visualize what the final product would look like on his building and how the halo-lit elements would accent the maze lines at night.

PICKING THE LOCK

The Booby Trap Escape Room building was still under construction and scheduled to open in under two months, just in time for the busy summer season. Now the fabrication department was tasked with constructing a 28-ft.-tall x 22-ft.-wide, halo-lit lock sign. The result was too large to haul to the site in one piece, but could not be simply split in half because of its overlapping halo-lit maze elements. The lock would have to be fabricated in pieces and assembled onsite; if any of the backer plate pieces was off even a ¼ in., the rest of the sign components would not align. No stress, right?

The La Crosse fabricators constructed a 2-in.-thick aluminum backer plate made with aluminum angle and .125-in.-thick aluminum skin, then painted it using Matthews Paint System to match a metallic silver color, so the halo lighting would reflect nicely off the backer plate. Next they used .177 clear polycarbonate, cut on our MultiCam 3000 CNC Router, to fit the back of the halo-lit maze lines. It was mounted off of the silver backer panel by 1.5 in. to allow for the lighting to create a glow around the dark maze lines. This clear backer panel had two purposes: to mount the LEDs and also to keep birds from getting inside the letters, which can get quite messy. The fabricators mounted Principal LED Street Fighter RGB LEDs to the clear polycarbonate with the fabricated aluminum maze lines covering so that no wiring or lights were visible. They then routed the face of the maze lines from .125-in.-thick aluminum and welded .125 x 4-in.-deep aluminum returns to the faces. Finally, they painted the maze lines Matthews MP46540 Brazed Bronze Metallic for a metallic appearance during the day.

NO ROOM FOR ERROR

The entire lock-maze was pre-assembled in the shop to make sure all mounting components lined up, then taken completely apart for transportation to the job site. The La Crosse installation team reviewed how the building elements might affect their installation, as every day they were changing due to the ongoing construction. Because the installers needed a very flat plane to mount this sign, they did have to remove a few siding transition boards to make sure the building had no raised areas. The silver backer panel was in 14 pieces and all of them had to be bolted together and fastened to the building individually. Again, there was no tolerance for error.

Mounting LEDs to the clear polycarbonate. The lights and wiring would later be covered by the fabricated aluminum maze lines.
Mounting LEDs to the clear polycarbonate. The lights and wiring would later be covered by the fabricated aluminum maze lines.

The lighting control consisted of one Principal LED Model CT-A02-A touch RGB controller and eight Model CT-AP102A RGB power amplifiers to control the eight different light banks required to light the maze. The controller and amplifiers each required a dedicated universal power supply. A wireless handheld control wheel could change the lighting colors either manually or automatically through sequences of color changes. There were also eight 6-ft.-tall keys that our team mounted around the building. The keys were constructed and lighted the same way as the lock, allowing the keys and lock-maze to display different colors. 

So, the key to attracting temperamental tourists to the Booby Trap Escape Room is not only its on-trend entertainment offering, but stunning signage that demands attention.


EQUIPMENT AND MATERIALS

SOFTWARE: FlexiSIGN-PRO, thinksai.com 
ROUTER: MultiCam 3000, multicam.com
WELDERS: Miller Millermatic 252 Mig Welders, millerwelds.com
PAINTING: Matthews Paint System, matthewspaint.com 
LIGHTING: Principal LED Street Fighter RGB (lighting components), Principal LED Model CT-A02-A touch (controller), Principal LED Model CT-AP102A RGB (amplifiers), p-led.com
INSTALLATION: Skyhoist RX102 crane/bucket truck; Manitex SC62 crane/bucket truck, manitex.com

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Signs of the Times December 2018

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