Signing up with Tabcorp
By Peter Kohn
TABCORP’s new state-of-the-art racing stadium at Melton, in Melbourne’s outer west, will stage its first turf event on July 5, ushering in a new era for the Victorian horse racing industry.
Under a long-term sponsorship deal with Tabcorp, the centre will be known as Tabcorp Park, and will be the premier address for harness racing in Australia, and the new home of Tabcorp partner, Harness Racing Victoria.
The facility opened its doors to the public on March 5, on the promise of injecting new life into Victorian harness racing, after many decades at Moonee Valley.
The first sod was turned on the Tabcorp Park project in April 2007 and work soon began on a 1040-metre racetrack, after which the remainder of the complex began construction.
Offering a sparkling array of hospitality options to patrons – as well as stabling and human accommodation (for horses, owners, trainers and drivers who travel from country areas or interstate for turf events), the new centre is a far cry from what the so-called ‘traditional’ racing enthusiasts had to settle for over the years at the Moonee Valley racecourse.
Located close to horse studs and other facilities, Tabcorp Stadium will offer a new deal for anyone interested in harness racing, so it is no surprise that Tabcorp has attracted major corporate sponsorship.
Blueprints for the new facility included a major promotional element with thousands of square metres of signage – and the contract for building and installing the signs has gone to visuals icon Swift Signs, which had a strong track record with Tabcorp from signage projects at Moonee Valley and other venues.
As Swift Signs’ director David Whiteway tells Wide Format Online, the company has been around for 55 years, founded by Australian visual graphics pioneer Morry Swift.
It began in a small workshop at Essendon, in Melbourne’s inner north, and five years ago, moved to Campbellfield on the northern metro fringe, where it now has a staff of 15 who work in a spacious new premises, set up to enable multiple projects to evolve simultaneously.
Beginning work on the Tabcorp Park signage contract some 12 months ago, Swift Signs’ brief was to construct and install the signage trusses and to print and install the rapidly changing content, as sponsors’ advertising and promotional campaigns require.
Whiteway says the first phase of his company’s involvement was to construct a 4.2m-high perimeter wall that has to withstand high winds in the area. “The company came up with a design that saved Tabcorp around half a million dollars, “ he said.
Along a line of fencing on the back straight, there are plans for a series of 26 sponsors’ signs, each measuring 20 x 3m. On the infield track and at the winning post, there will be a series of four interchangeable banners indicating races, each measuring 4.5 x 2.4m. On the straight, there will be a series of six frame signs, each 4 x 1.2m, and a further series of 10 spots with large banners is planned.
To print all this signage, Swift Signs turned to DGI true-solvent technology, available from Product Distribution Australia (PDA), which handles the DGI solvent printers locally, in its range of digital signage hardware and software.
Swift Signs will print most of the work for Tabcorp on a DGI Spacejet 3250P, a 3.2m CMYK superwide format eight-head printer. “The resolution of this machine is 640 x 1440dpi, which offers the best viewing for this particular job, where typical sighting of the signs will be from a distance of around 150m,” said Whiteway.
Swift Signs has ordered another machine from PDA’s Keith Scott, a DGI ST1806 that offers results closer to photo quality at a resolution of 740 x 1440dpi, for work viewed at closer range. “Neither machine offers the 1440 x 1440dpi resolution available with eco-solvent machines, but that degree of sharpness wasn’t what was needed for this project,” explained Whiteway.
He said Swift Signs reviewed several solvent printers on the market but opted for DGI because PDA offered Melbourne-based service and support and was on hand quickly whenever anything was needed. “We developed good relations with Keith and found it to be an effective partnership.”
Scott was given a tour of Tabcorp Park by Whiteway and said afterwards: “The combination of Swift's old and new generation of staff was a sight to see. It was great to see Morry Swift, a real icon of the industry, and his ‘old’ mates providing more than moral support!”
The signage will be printed on satin 440gsm banner media and frontlit. Glossier media was rejected because too much reflection would detract from the content, especially in daylight glare or under photographers’ flashes. It will withstand UV radiation, weather and scratching.
“It’s certainly a different way of working than what we used to do,” Whiteway said, referring to signwriting, which was the company’s procedure for most of its five decades. “It would take two signwriters around a day to produce one banner, now we run it off the printer in one hour.”
The main challenge at Tabcorp Park was to mount the sign trusses securely. The back straight had been built on a foundation of three metre-deep fill, so the trusses had to be anchored below the fill level.
One option was to excavate, but Swift Signs went for a far more effective process, using a series of 3.5-4m-wide screw mounts that were literally screwed into the ground, through the fill and into the secure clay base beneath, providing a platform on which the trusses could be attached.
Swift Signs established its name in the industry by constructing signage trusses and mounts, and offering expertise in welding, cutting, machining and electrical connections. The company also provides expertise in logistics, organising access, health and safety, and traffic approval around its signage projects.
“We’re basically a sign manufacturer that has moved into printing. We used to outsource the actual signs, but decided to move into this aspect of the work ourselves, including a design service, to keep our customers happy. It also gave us a greater deal of control, so that we could guarantee our deadlines more effectively.”
The company also has the contract to print all the winning post and sponsorship signage at the Moonee Valley venue. “Nothing we did at Melton has been outsourced,” notes Whiteway, and says versatility is a definite advantage for a contractor. The company offers digital, pylon, illuminated, 3D and vehicle work.
Swift Signs supplies signage for a number of projects, says Whiteway, including theatrical promotions for the new musical, Jersey Boys, where it partners with theatre promoter Showworks.
It also handles pylon signs for a local council, including directional signs for streets, and provides shopfits and painting signage for tyre retailer Michelin Australia.
Asked about how Swift Signs is handling the current economic climate, Whiteway said his company has never been busier. “Recession? From our viewpoint, there’s no sign of it!”