Feature Article - September 2020
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Lights, Sound, Action … Score!

Create Top-Quality Events That Don't Break the Bank

By Deborah Vence

Advancements in technology have come a long way over the years and have turned sporting events, large and small, into a more thrilling experience—whether it's a youth baseball game being played under the lights at a popular neighborhood park or a champion NBA team playing in one of the largest indoor sports arenas with a state-of-the-art scoreboard and sound system.

It goes without saying that LED lighting, high-tech scoreboards and cutting-edge sound systems together have brought the world of sports to another level of intensity. And, it's these innovations that continue to make watching sports live even more exciting and enjoyable year after year.

Sports Lighting

Lighting manufacturers have made it possible for sports parks and facilities, whether at the youth, high school, collegiate or professional level, to offer an enhanced playing experience as well as enable facilities to better manage costs.

"The best word to describe the current state of the sports lighting market is control," said Mike Quijano, director of business development and product marketing for a Syracuse, N.Y.-based sports lighting company.

"Facility operators are looking for LED sports lighting to give them control in several ways: control over skyrocketing maintenance costs; the ability to control where their light shines—for high school and municipal fields that means lighting the playing surface and not the entire community; the ability to control their lights remotely via their cell phone; and simply the ability to control how much light they use and when."

As the LED sports lighting market has grown, low-end generic imports have become available.

"As a result, it is more important than ever to understand what you are buying. If you simply rely upon your contractor, architect, electrician or lighting specifier, you may get a solution that fits your budget, but not your needs," Quijano said.

"Even if you simply want the lights to just turn on and off, a reputable manufacturer can provide high-performance value-driven solutions to fit your needs," he added. "It is true that all LED lights provide light, but how they produce the light can vary greatly, and the result can limit control, performance and reliability."

Shahil Amin, vice president of sales and marketing for a Fort Mill, S.C.-based LED lighting manufacturer, added that many facilities are upgrading their traditional lighting system with an LED lighting system.

"By having an LED lighting system, it allows for more visual acuity, which enhances the experience for players, spectators and fans alike," he said. "For larger facilities, we are seeing a trend in adding more RGB fixtures into their lighting systems. This allows for many dynamic scenes and entertainment effects (home team colors when points are scored, different colors for different awareness causes, etc)."

When selecting lighting, Amin said the quality of illumination that the facility requires needs to be considered, and is one of the most important factors.

"Different facilities have different needs in terms of what levels of illumination they require, and it is important to meet those requirements. It is also very important to consider the quality of the luminaire they are reviewing," Amin said. "Not all LED lighting systems are created equal. There are many different factors that are 'underneath the hood' that sometimes get overlooked (heat dissipation/thermal management, CRI, accessibility, etc). It is important to really take a deep look to [know] exactly what you are getting, and how best that will be suited around your facility's particular needs."

Amin provided a few examples of facilities that needed to enhance the illumination at their athletic fields. The multipurpose athletic field at Macdonald Stadium in Malden, Mass., needed an upgrade to its stadium lighting because the light output had depreciated over the course of many years. Improving visibility and light levels on the field was a main concern, but so was minimizing upfront costs, energy costs and future maintenance costs.

So, to upgrade the stadium lighting in a cost-effective way, a new line of sports luminaires was used, which improved visibility while cutting energy consumption by 68%. As a result, Macdonald Stadium now has a lighting solution that will last years. And, this will allow for time, money and resources to be spent on more productive projects.

In another example, in Stephenville, Texas, Tarleton State University's intramural fields originally had 150 1,500-watt metal halide fixtures across the fields. The traditional fixtures had constant issues, such as lamps burning out and having to replace ballasts, and maintenance costs were steadily mounting. To replace the fixtures, a photometric study was conducted and showed that using only 80 440-watt luminaires could illuminate the two fields and increase the current light levels immensely.

In a final case example, at Slaton Baseball Field in Texas, Amin's company upgraded the baseball field lighting to LED, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the upgrade, the baseball field had 34 1,500-watt metal halide fixtures. Using 60 750-watt luminaires would light up the baseball field and increase the light levels immensely, all while reducing energy. Three different beam spreads were used to achieve uniform illumination levels of the baseball field. What's more, the new luminaires feature a thermal management system that allows for continuous airflow to keep the luminaire cool. And its design provides uniform and constant light levels throughout the life of the luminaire, with minimal lumen depreciation. In addition, with a rated luminaire life of up to 100,000 hours, the luminaires will last more than five times longer than the old metal halide lamps. Ballasts also were eliminated from the circuit, reducing maintenance costs and energy consumption as well.