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Case Study: American Dream Retail and Entertainment Complex

The American Dream project at the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, NJ was first announced back in 2003, although plans to develop the land go all the way back to 1987. After years of ownership changes, delays, and even a couple name changes, American Dream began a phased opening in October of 2019, although the COVID-19 pandemic forced a temporary shutdown.

When construction kicked into high gear several years ago, American Dream architects contacted AVCON. They had completed drawings and schematics of the complex, including a massive steel structure and stair tower in the water park. They needed railing professionals to design railing systems based on their existing plans.

The Engineering Challenge

Initially, conversations focused on engineering capabilities. American Dream was the polar opposite of a standard job. In fact, several other railing manufacturers chose not to bid on the project because of the complex engineering requirements. They simply couldn’t handle it.

Of course, there was no room for error. Working from the architect’s drawings, we had to design railing systems within 1/8 or even 1/16 of an inch. This wasn’t like a simple balcony where you could just show up and take measurements. Everything had to be precise.

With an in-house engineering department and CAD designers, AVCON was prepared to take on the American Dream project.

Custom Railing Solutions for Highly Complex Applications

Once we demonstrated our engineering capabilities, the conversation shifted to the product itself. The architectural drawings from the client included painted metal railings.

AVCON recommended a metal-reinforced thermoplastic railing system that would be more durable and require no maintenance. This was especially important because the railings would be exposed to pool chemicals and heavy abuse. Next, we began to address the many code requirements and specific applications throughout the complex.

American Dream required standard baluster railings and handrails for stair towers. They needed queue railings to control crowds waiting in line at the ground level, as well as glass railings that allowed people to see attractions. Private cabanas on multiple levels required safety railings and transparent railings so people could look down on the activity below. They also needed portable, freestanding rail systems to control very heavy crowds.

And that was just the water park.

Finally, there was a tremendous amount of coordination from the initial engagement about design capabilities to the final installation. Our team was constantly communicating with architects, engineers, the manufacturer of steel structures, and various tradespeople and vendors who were doing work at the same location. We also had to balance the needs of the construction manager with the day-to-day operations team and come up with solutions that work for both sides.

Staying True to the Brand Themes with the Right Colors

In addition to complex engineering requirements and choosing the right railing system, color was very important to maintaining consistency with themes throughout the facility. For example, AVCON had to match their weathered leather and jazzberry jam colors to suit the theme of the DreamWorks Water Park.

With popular characters from Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar, and How to Train Your Dragon, brand consistency at American Dream is vital to creating a positive customer experience. The railing colors perfectly match the park themes and extend throughout the thermoplastic coating. Scratches are barely noticeable, and maintenance is as simple as wiping down the rails. The more you wipe them down, the shinier they get.

The Road Ahead

The full opening of American Dream in March was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the railing systems we’ve engineered and installed meet strict requirements for safety, compliance, durability, crowd control, aesthetics, brand consistency, and an exceptional customer experience. The fact is, most railing manufacturers simply didn’t have the in-house expertise and tools to take on such a complicated project, much less exceed expectations with the final deliverable.

AVCON will continue to work with American Dream to test and optimize solutions across the facility, and we share the public’s anticipation for the long-awaited full opening of this incredible retail and entertainment complex!