Facility Profile - February 2011
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Lighting: Bright Upgrades

The Ponds of Brookfield Ice Arena in Brookfield, Wis.

By Dawn Klingensmith

Orion guarantees its fixtures will increase light levels and quality while reducing energy costs. Typically, customers slash energy consumption by 50 percent or more, and the resulting savings usually offset the cost of the fixtures in two or three years, according to Linda Diedrich, Orion's director of corporate communications. And for organizations that are hesitant or unable to invest in the technology up front, Orion offers a capital-free payment plan.

Yet, despite these virtues, had Perry gone with his gut reaction when the project was under way, the Orion lighting system would not be in place. During installation, Perry saw a side-by-side comparison of the new fluorescents vs. the metal halides as the new fixtures began to replace the old ones a bank at a time. "I thought, 'This is not good.' The new lights seemed way too bright. I thought, 'Someone's going to complain.' The difference was startling." Perry recalled. About halfway through the retrofit, he nearly ordered the crew to stop. But he resisted the urge and is thrilled with the results.

"I wanted natural, easy light on the eyes, and they nailed it," he said.

The comfort and safety of his hockey players was Perry's principal concern—so much so that while he was researching lighting options, he brought along to several ice rinks a collection of hockey helmets with half and full-face plastic shields to see how various types of lighting appeared through different face guards. But the secondary payoffs have been gratifying. Since the upgrade, "I have had photographers and videographers thank me," he said, "because game pictures are clearer and brighter."

For the record, The Ponds of Brookfield has seen a 15 percent reduction in energy costs, which is less than Orion's average customer. But an ice arena presents some unique challenges, and The Ponds of Brookfield is a pioneer in employing fluorescent lighting in such a facility.

The lighting is not the only thing that makes the 12-year-old ice arena unique. Because of its location on a parcel of green space encompassing wetlands and other wildlife habitat, the city of Brookfield imposed some costly but worthwhile requirements, including landscaped berms on each end of the building. The berms prevent the arena from looking like "a big, out-of-place rectangular building," Perry said.

Embracing the concept of "fitting in," the arena includes a mezzanine level with floor-to-ceiling windows, which connects the interior with its natural surroundings and allows natural sunlight to pour in.

"It overlooks a field where deer and coyotes run," Perry said.

"A 38,000-square-foot building out in the middle of a field could easily look out of place," he added, "but I don't think we do. I think we fit in pretty well. Turkeys walk right up to the doors. Everyone thinks it's kind of cool."

Before The Ponds of Brookfield was built, "We repeatedly heard from our neighbors in the planning phase that they wanted us to be sensitive to the surrounding nature," Perry said.

So, it's fitting that a decade later the arena would take the lead in installing earth-friendly, fluorescent lighting and then "evangelize" to other ice rinks that such a move benefits the environment, player performance and overall patron satisfaction, not to mention the bottom line.


The Ponds of Brookfield: www.thepondsofbrookfield.com

Orion Energy Systems: www.oesx.com