John Cantrell hitched his safety belt Thursday afternoon and prepared to be hoisted 40 feet into the air by mechanical lift, up to the concrete wall of a pedestrian ramp inside Williams-Brice Stadium.
He unrolled a 50-inch-by-7-foot, pressure-sensitive "textured wall film" of USC's "Gamecock/Block-C" logo onto the concrete surface. Using 1,100-degree heat from a roller/heat gun, he "melted" the graphic onto the wall face. The process took about 20 minutes.
It was one of the final touches in a three-week face-lift for Williams-Brice, which will be celebrating its 75th anniversary this season. It goes on display Saturday night when South Carolina plays host to Florida Atlantic in the Gamecocks' 2009 football home opener.
Already on the ramp were the name and statistics of Bo Davies, who from 1969-71 set the school record for interceptions (14). Other USC career leaders - quarterbacks Todd Ellis and Steve Taneyhill, linebackers J.D. Fuller and Eric Norwood, coaches Rex Enright and Joe Morrison, 13 names and 18 records in all - now have their accomplishments, resplendent in garnet and black, adorning the previously off-white surfaces.
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The $155,000 project also features displays recognizing USC's four retired football numbers (those of George Rogers, Steve Wadiak, Sterling Sharpe and Mike Johnson). The plan was to fulfill coach Steve Spurrier's desire to honor - in big letters - the Gamecocks' football past.
"That was Steve's idea," said athletics director Eric Hyman. "He came up with the categories to recognize and accentuate the success we've had here."
Jamie Speronis, USC director of football operations, said Spurrier also "wanted a way to jazz up the stadium." Hyman called the stadium's previous look "a little industrial."
Spurrier and sports information director Steve Fink researched records and chose players to be recognized.
"Coach wanted a good representation of the accomplishments," Speronis said.
Translating that information into graphics then fell to Greenville-based B2B Media, which digitally produced the images on the textured vinyl, produced by 3M and specifically designed to adhere to rough surfaces. B2B has done similar sports displays for Alabama, Mississippi State, Georgia and Clemson, according to its Web site.
"Most of the projects we do are more intricate," said B2B spokesperson Christina Harrell. "This is big and bold; the idea was to get the garnet inside the stadium."
Harrell said B2B could have produced any images desired, even "Fat Head"-style reproductions or silhouettes of USC athletes. Those ideas were rejected, she said, "because that wouldn't translate when being viewed from far away. (USC) wanted it simple and clean."
For fans who have seen the garnet "wrapping" of the Williams-Brice exterior (It was done by TPM, a competitor of B2B, and both installations were handled by East Coast Graphics.) - or for anyone who has seen cars and vans covered with vinyl advertising - the interior look is similar, and striking.
Most of the changes are on the ramps. Besides player records, the stadium's four corners also feature signage for the Gamecock Club, the athletics department's Web site and, in the southeast corner, a "Welcome to Williams-Brice Stadium, Home of the Gamecocks" greeting.
A previous painted sign recognizing USC's ACC champions in 1969 has been replaced with a display on the wall of The Zone, USC's premium club in the south end zone.
The lengthiest part of the project, East Coast Graphics' Cantrell said, was transforming the field wall between the West stands and USC's home-team sideline into a garnet background with Block C-Gamecock logos every 10 feet. "That took two weeks alone," he said.
Now that the unveiling is almost here - a hallway outside coaches' offices remained to be done Thursday - those who put it together are anxious to gauge fans' reactions.
"I'm going to the first game," said B2B's Harrell, who said her company is working on graphics for USC men's and women's basketball locker rooms.
"If (the football team) gets an SEC title, we can add that."
Reach senior writer Bob Gillespie at (803) 771-8304.