Justin Tousignant, president of Fitchburg, Massachusetts-based Black Bear Coatings & Concrete knew he couldn’t sit behind a desk all day every day: “My dad told me to get a job. So I did the opposite. I started a business.”
Tousignant started the business when he was in college doing general construction and painting. After he met John Scott in 2008, they decided to partner and shift its focus to industrial and commercial flooring. Since then, the company has grown to about 25 field guys plus office staff. Black Bear, which serves the region around Boston, now specializes in all types of industrial and commercial flooring.
Black Bear prides itself on staying at the forefront of material technology. “We really like to separate ourselves in that way,” Tousignant explained. “The type of flooring we do is a niche business as it is. So we want to stay at the forefront in terms of material science, material curing, durability of materials, and so on.”
Armed with this knowledge of material technology and years of experience, Black Bear Coatings & Concrete was called to the home of Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Boston Red Sox, known as Fenway Park. Concourse A, a busy ticketing gate and stadium entrance, needed a recoating. Black Bear had previously done work at Fenway and had a good relationship with the Red Sox director of facilities.
Fenway Park is a historic baseball stadium that opened on April 20, 1912. More than 2 million visitors tour the stadium every year — not including the baseball games or concerts and other events at the stadium! Surprisingly, some of the original concrete under the high-traffic area of Concourse A still exists, even after all these years of foot traffic. A traffic coating had been installed on the 13,000-square-foot (1,207.7 m2) space nearly a decade prior, but it was starting to show a great deal of wear — enough that facilities managers were thinking they needed to rip up the whole floor and start over.
A consultation with Black Bear brought some welcome news: Ripping it all up and starting over was not necessary.
“I don’t want to waste clients’ money,” said Tousignant. “A total tear-out wasn’t the right thing to do. We did some adhesion testing on the front end. We ended up interfacing with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates (WJE) to verify the specs that we wrote, that our means and method were correct, and that the Red Sox management would be happy with it.”
To get an accurate sense of how a new BASF coating system would perform, testing was done in about 15 locations throughout the area. In this way, Black Bear could account for any differences in the existing surface in order to maintain consistency in the new coating system. Once the testing was complete and verified, surface preparation could begin.
Wintertime in Boston
When Black Bear began work in Concourse A, although it was January and it was baseball’s offseason, there was only a two-week window for the eight crew members to complete the project. A large event was scheduled for the next week, so Black Bear had to get it right — the first time.
The work was divided into two phases and spanned 10 days. “Each phase took approximately five days,” explained Tousignant. “Our prep, shot blasting, edge grinding, any type of patching we had to do — that took about a day and a half to two days. The subsequent days were basecoat, grout coat, topcoat.”
Ambient temperatures between 50 and 60 °F (10.0–15.5 °C), especially near the overhead doors where people enter and exit the stadium, led Tousignant to choose a urethane-based system. “We wanted to make sure that the curing process wouldn’t be affected,” he said.
Thankfully, the temperature of the concrete was not a concern. According to Tousignant, “Fenway uses massive gas-powered heaters under that area of the stadium, so that the concrete never goes through an extreme freeze-thaw.”
Surface prep involved using a Blastrac 10 DS shot blaster with medium abrasive 3/30 shot. In spots where the previous coating had failed, the Black Bear crew used Metabo edge grinders with arrowheads and polycrystalline diamond (PCD) grinding wheels. High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA)-filtered Ermator vacuums kept the area dust-free, and solvent wipes were used to clean the prepared surface.
The three-part BASF MasterSeal Traffic 2500 Primerless coating system was then applied. BASF’s MasterSeal Traffic 2500 Primerless is a fluid-applied polyurethane waterproofing system that uses a fast-setting, two-component reactive curing mechanism. It has a very low odor and is compliant with low-VOC (volatile organic compound) standards.
BASF’s MasterSeal M 270 NP, a two-component, fast-curing polyurethane, was applied as a basecoat at an average wet thickness of 25 mils (635.0 microns). This was followed by MasterSeal TC 275, a two-component fast-curing aromatic polyurethane at 25 mils (635.0 microns) average wet thickness, along with a full #1 NJ sand broadcast (to refusal) at approximately 50–65 pounds per square foot (244.1–317.4 kg/m2). Finally, the topcoat consisted of MasterSeal TC 295, a high-performance, two-component, aliphatic, high-solids urethane waterproofing membrane. This final coat was applied at an average wet thickness of 20 mils (508.0 microns).
Brushes were used to cut in the perimeter and around objects such as columns and stairs. The eight crew members then used a notched squeegee and a 3/8-inch (1.0 cm) roller to apply the various coatings of the three-part system.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) was used all along, including 3M face masks and dust masks, 3M ear protection and safety goggles, nitrile gloves, and hard hats when necessary. Although coatings were applied after office hours to minimize the effect of nuisance odors, Dri-Eaz and Phoenix brand HEPA-filtered negative air machines, complete with charcoal filters, were used to help clear the air.
Ready to Rock ‘n’ Roll
Black Bear Coatings & Concrete doesn’t miss any details. They know the science behind coatings, and they work hard to manage a coatings project from beginning to end. Concourse A at Fenway Park was no different. Tousignant explained, “We worked closely with the director of facilities because we didn’t want any type of issue to arise. When we were prepping, for example, we made sure to let them know to keep people clear of the area.”
The tight schedule also showcased Operation Manager Ben Salerno's project management skills. “With just a two-week window to execute the work, coordination was the most important thing,” he said. “If we had gone longer than six days in the first phase, it really would have impacted the second, which is why we worked so hard. We made sure that we had buy-in from everyone on our team to make sure that it got done. That’s one of the reasons we did the adhesion testing. Yes, I could come in and recoat this. You have a couple million people walking on it a year — no problem. But what if we don’t do the testing, don’t add the data, and then the coating fails? That’s a nightmare. That’s the other reason we managed it so tightly, constantly anticipating using our real-life experience. We’re really trying to get rid of any pain point so when we can come in, we have the entire space to ourselves, and we’re ready to rock
Fenway, too, was ready to rock ‘n’ roll the very next week. The Red Sox were saved from a total tear-out, and Fenway’s high-traffic Concourse A was ready in time for the next big event.