When Bob McDaid, the owner of I-Play America, first came to me and asked how to create a wood, asphalt, and concrete look for his indoor New Jersey theme park, I was excited for the opportunity to show off my decorative concrete range, all in one project. McDaid wanted to create a New Jersey boardwalk look on one side of the park and an old worn road that would match the theme park decor on the other half. I began creating samples in February 2010.
The boardwalk sample hit the nail on the head right from the get go. I used the H&C stampable overlay with a wood plank stamp. Then the wood plank was stained with two semi-transparent stains to create a weathered look. When it came time to do the actual install and design inside the park, we changed the direction of the wood plank in many different areas to not overpower the wood. We added king boards in different areas to create the illusion of walking from a boardwalk onto a pier where the park’s rides were placed. I know our concept was successful when I hear people ask, “Is this real wood?”
The broom finish concrete look was easy to achieve. We used H&C Broom Finish Repair Mix to create the illusion so that when you walk through the streets of I-Play America, you will see the curb and sidewalks. My team and I applied the broom finish mix to the existing concrete floors and, once cured, used a 1/4-inch diamond blade on a hand grinder to create the illusion of expansion joints. The joints were created to distinguish the 6-inch-wide curb from the sidewalk behind it.
The creation of the asphalt look for inside the theme park was not as easy. I tried paint chips with 3/4-inch flakes, stamping with certain stamps, and spray texture. The spray texture looked the most realistic. This part of the project was meant to look like a Tuscan village street, so I had to make the asphalt look old and worn. I used a spray texture gun with H&C’s heavy traffic resurfacer to create the texture of asphalt. Once the product was about 70% hard, we used a light knockdown to show some of the smooth characteristics of asphalt. Three different colors were used to make the asphalt look realistic. The main part of the asphalt is charcoal colored and then there are specs of grey meant to look like stone. Finally, I used a sand color over the entire area to make it look like the asphalt was dirty.
Another important detail used to make the old weathered road was the installation of Appian Cobblestone in certain areas to give the illusion that the asphalt has broken and worn out so much that the cobblestone had started to come out from underneath. We left these areas irregular so one can’t see a transition between products. The final component into creating the asphalt look was installing cracks into the asphalt. After testing many methods, the one that looked best was using a chisel and hammer, and chiseling crack lines into the sprayed asphalt. It took four men three days to create all the cracks. The cracks looked great but the color didn’t look realistic so I traced the cracks with a block semitranslucent stain. This was applied with a small painter brush. It took a look of time and testing to make it look perfect. In one part of I-Play America, the fake asphalt runs into a delivery door where it meets real asphalt. It’s hard to tell the difference between the fake asphalt and the real asphalt.
I also was asked to create an elegant European courtyard for the park entrance. The first pattern that came to my mind was a European fan stampable overlay. I used a silver gray base with a charcoal highlight to create this look.
McDaid was so amazed at the possibilities with decorative concrete that he started giving me more areas that were originally to feature tile or carpet. For the raised patio bistro, I did a seamless slate stamp overlay for the entire area and stamped the vertical walls. Then I used a 1/4-inch diamond blade to score 36x36-inch squares in a diamond pattern. The overlay was highlighted and sealed. Once the sealer dried, we grouted the scored lines. On the other raised bistro patio, I used a royal ashlar slate stamped overlay to achieve a slate look.
My team and I spent many hours making I-Play America a showcase of decorative concrete. We installed about 50,000 square feet of decorative concrete coatings. I-Play America opened on Nov. 11, 2011. At 115,000 square feet, it is New Jersey’s premier indoor amusement park.
Andre E. Garrote is the hardscapes manager for Prendergast Landscape Contractors Inc. in Chesterfield, N.J. Follow Andre on Twitter @DecoConcretePro.