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Facility Profile - February 2011

Lighting: Bright Upgrades

The Ponds of Brookfield Ice Arena in Brookfield, Wis.

By Dawn Klingensmith


The coach sounded antsy for Robert Perry to set the stage for a serious hockey match. "Hey!" he called to Perry. "Can you turn the lights on?"

Perry, owner of the Ponds of Brookfield Ice Arena in Brookfield, Wis., took note of the time. "You don't go on for another 30 minutes," he called back.

Even so, in the coach's mind, it was time to flip the switch. That's because the metal halide lamps that the arena's architect specified when the rink was built required a 25-minute warm-up period to produce its full light capacity.

But unbeknownst to the coach, something akin to Day One in the biblical "Genesis" account would soon take place. Perry waited until just before game time to switch on the lamps, and though he did not proclaim, "Let there be light," the effect was dramatic and seemingly miraculous.

Perry had replaced the metal halide lamps with energy-efficient fluorescent lighting that fully illuminated the rink at the flip of a switch.

Perry visited several facilities and researched several companies before upgrading to fluorescent lighting, against the advice of the building's architect, who felt the technology was ill-suited for an ice rink application. The perceived obstacles were the considerable distance between the light source and the ice and the fact that fluorescent lights "generally like a warmer temperature" for optimal functionality, Perry said.

"The architect's main concern was that the temperature in an ice arena would not be conducive to getting the best performance from the fluorescents," he added, "but I am here to tell you, he was wrong, wrong, wrong."

A year after installation, in his capacity as president of the Wisconsin Ice Arena Managers Association, Perry became a self-described "evangelist" urging other rinks to get rid of metal halides and replace them with fluorescents.

One issue Perry had with metal halides was the annual cost of replacing bulbs. Every year, he switched out all 66 bulbs over the rink at a cost of $32 each. (Add in lift rental and labor, and the average cost per bulb was about $55 vs. $4 to $6 for each T8 fluorescent bulb.) Had Perry not replaced the bulbs all at once, there would have been patches of brighter and dimmer light on the ice, presenting a safety hazard to skaters.

The old fixtures also "were generating a lot of heat and fighting his refrigerating equipment," said Art Foss of Current Electric Co., the Brookfield-based company that supplied the ice arena's new fluorescent lighting, manufactured by Orion Energy Systems, Manitowoc, Wis.

Orion's fluorescent fixtures feature several energy-conserving, proprietary components such as aluminum frames, which dissipate heat more efficiently than traditionally used steel. The fixtures also have built-in heat ventilators and patented "roll-form reflectors," parabolic in shape, that wrap around the bulbs to efficiently harvest light and cast it right where it is needed.

Perry initially shared the architect's concern that fluorescent lighting might be too diffused by the time it reached the ice, but the roll-form reflector laid those concerns to rest. "The entire ice sheet is bathed in constant, consistent lighting," he said.