The Sign-Making Jackpot

Rivers CasinoRivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady, New York is an LEED-certified entertainment complex with five restaurants and a spa that boasts a variety of gaming options on its 50,000-square-foot gaming floor with 1,150 slot machines, sixty-seven gaming tables, and sixteen poker tables.

It also boasts a wide assortment of signage—everything from channel letters to digital signage to monuments to ADA and wayfinding—and Nova Sign Group in New Jersey was responsible for providing every single piece of it.

“We did every sign on that site,” says Corey Kennedy, COO of Nova Sign Group. “right down to the smallest exit sign with Braille on it.”

Nova Sign Group has been around since 1982 when it was known as Delaware Valley Signs and worked on large franchise retail locations for clients like Burger King and Dunkin Donuts. Corey Kennedy’s father George started and owned the company, and when Corey came on board in 2006, the sign company changed to Nova Sign Group. “We’ve pivoted our business model and now we focus on more specialized construction projects rather than retail projects,” he says. “Instead of doing multiple locations, now we focus more on a single-location project.”

Nova Sign Group was brought onto the casino job pretty early on in the process, when only 50 percent of the site had been constructed. They bid on the subcontracted signage portion and won the job.


From an aesthetic perspective, the designs for the signage were already taken care of by Entro Communications and Cleo Design, the design firms responsible for the signage design and approval.

“Cleo was the interior design firm, and some of the signage within the environment that Cleo created had to meld into that,” explains Tim Stoume, project manager at Nova Sign Group.

The designs may have been in place, but the engineering and fabricating side of things hadn’t been determined.

“We got the designs from Cleo or Entro and then figured out the best way to build it, the best way to install it, how to make it work with the rest of the building, how to get it engineered, and how to get it to pass a permit,” says Stoume. “We also worked directly with the end client, Rush Street Gaming, who owns the casino, to work on certain signs that they had issues with in the past at their other properties.”

Project Management

Nova Sign Group had a large, diverse group of clients to work with on this project, along with a large number of signs, so project management was key.

To start, the sign company hosted a messaging meeting at its shop with all the parties to go over what would be on each sign. They then prototyped every sign that would be on the site and hosted another meeting.

“We had about twenty-five people come in, all the decision makers, and everyone had to sit down and decide on what they liked—all the way from the facility manager up to the CEO of the company and the architects and designers,” says Kennedy, who explains this streamlined the decision-making process.

After the prototyping review, Nova Sign Group got started on manufacturing right away.

To keep track of the project and all of the paperwork that went with it, the shop used eSUB construction software. To keep tabs on all of the signs and the building and install process, they used an in-house software system. “We start off with every single sign on a site plan that’s geo-tagged,” says Kennedy, who explains that they start taking pictures on day one, even if the site is just a steel structure. “Every one of our installers carries an iPad with them on a site.”

On this iPad, the installers are able to reference any of the photos that are taken over the course of a job so they know, for example, what’s behind a wall before they cut into it. They can also pull up the design drawings, engineering drawings, final photos, and even the project manager’s notes. Once the job’s completed, they take a picture of that particular sign or site, and the pictures and any other information can be shared with people back in the office in live time so everyone is on the same page.

Exterior Signage – The Highlights

Digital Sign. The Rivers Casino project called for a large digital sign outside of the front entrance. As part of the prototype meeting, Nova Sign Group called in its supplier Vantage LED, which set up a display trailer with a digital display for the client to see.

Originally the display was slated to be 12mm, but the client was swayed to go with 10mm. “Vantage had programmed in custom graphics from Rivers and from our company as well,” says Stoume. “It sold them on switching to the 10mm.”

Kennedy states moving to the 10mm was a good choice, given the display’s proximity to the public. “It really was the best move because the bottom of that screen is almost at eye level,” he says, “and even though there’s landscaping in front of it, it’s right next to the main entrance as people are coming in.”

The low-power HD Outdoor LED sign from Vantage LED uses 70 percent less power than other displays on the market. It utilizes Vantage’s SM Infinity™ cloud-based system to create, schedule, and manage content on the LED sign.

Flexface Banner. To the left of the digital sign is a large, flexface banner. (Note: Nova Sign Group subbed out the printing of the banner to a third party.)

The 3M™ Panaflex™ Awning and Sign Facing 945GPS material is housed in a 42-foot-by-9-inch-wide, 22-foot-by-8-inch-tall SignComp Flat Bleed Retro Frame – Part #2104 with a Flat Bleed Retro Frame Cover – Part #2121. The banner is frontlit by an external lighting source.

Main Entrance Channel Letters. Large channel letters spelling out “Rivers Casino” were installed on the roof of the building adjacent to the entrance. The .090-inch aluminum returns of the letters were custom bent on a brake. The acrylic faces and the 1/4-inch aluminum backings were cut out on a MultiCam APEX3R CNC router.

Gold Matthews Paint was sprayed on the returns and gold ORAFOL translucent vinyl applied to the acrylic faces. White Matthews Paint was sprayed onto the oversized backers that serve to highlight the letters. The letters were both face-lit and reverse-lit by Bitro LEDs.

To install the letters, Nova Sign Group engineered a large steel structure to carry the letters. “There’s a continuous steel tube underneath those letters,” says Kennedy. “Before any of this left the shop, we put holes in that steel tube so that we knew where the letters needed to land.”

The steel structure was needed for additional support. “That parapet that they’re sitting above isn’t structural at all and wouldn’t have been able to hold those letters,” explains Stoume.

The letters had to be placed individually by the shop’s Elliott Equipment E160 E-line truck. “It’s a substantial crane, however, our reach that we had was about 130 feet out on that crane,” says Kennedy. “At 130 feet, a crane doesn’t carry as much weight as it normally would at 30 feet, so we had to keep the weight down on each of these, and we individually set the letters.”

The shop used a second boom lift for installers while working on the install. The letters were bolted into place with structural hollow bolts into the steel tubing.

Even though the casino wasn’t open during the installation, Nova Sign Group still faced logistical and scheduling challenges when setting up and completing the installation due to the number of trades simultaneously working onsite. For one, they had to make sure their crane was placed so that there was still an access lane open for other essential site traffic.

“We have to work with every trade on a site,” says Kennedy. “You have to play nice with everybody and make sure they have continuous access. When we were over the top of the main entranceway, safety calls for not allowing people underneath the crane. So we basically had to close off the main entrance, and we were not necessarily the most popular guys onsite at that point in time.”

The sign company also had to work around the paving schedule and make sure their trucks were in and out for the installation before the finished paving was completed. “It was a logistical challenge, but ultimately it got done in time,” says Kennedy.

Monuments. Nova Sign Group provided multiple monuments throughout the casino campus—including two large ones and ten slightly smaller directionals.Nova Sign Group , Rivers Casino

The two larger monuments mimicked the look of the building façade by using the same stone and yellow cladding. “It was this special stone that we had to import from Turkey at the same time as the exterior cladding company ordered theirs, because it had to match that,” explains Kennedy, who says the shop ordered extra in case anything happened during the installation (luckily everything went smoothly).

The faces of the monuments are routed aluminum with routed push-through acrylic copy. First surface 3M™ Day/Night Film 3635-91 was applied to the copy (as well as to two signs at the entrances to the parking garage) so that the message wouldn’t get lost during the day. During the day, the copy reads black, but at night it’s backlit with warm white LEDs from Bitro.

The monuments were secured to the ground using steel posts.

Interior Signage

Nova Sign Group provided various illuminated and non-illuminated ADA, wayfinding, and identity signage in the casino.

Directional hanging signs were made from aluminum and painted with custom-mixed Matthews Paint to match a metal veneer in the casino. A faux-wood laminate was applied to the ends of these signs.

The custom-mixed shade of Matthews Paint was also used on the returns for some of the other signs in the building such as “Poker” and “High Limit.”

Final Touches

The signage portion of the Rivers Casino job took about half a year to complete, with the entire casino being completed in just a year.

Nova Sign Group went back in before the casino opened and installed additional identity and wayfinding signs management deemed necessary, like signage for the ATM and cashier sections.

By Ashley Bray

Photos: Christian Phillips Photography.