Feature Article - November 2009
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Audio & Illumination

Space-Specific, Sport-Specific

By Dawn Klingensmith


Scout It Out

Whether in the market for loudspeakers or lighting, consumers should first do some legwork. It's advisable to visit several similar facilities to assess different degrees of audio or lighting quality, and to ask facility managers about their experiences with the design, equipment and manufacturers.

Before upgrading to high-efficiency fluorescent lighting at Ponds of Brookfield Ice Arena, Perry not only visited several other arenas, but he also brought along a collection of hockey helmets with half and full-face plastic shields to see how various types of lighting appeared through different face guards.

Updating sports lighting entails a significant outlay of capital, with ongoing expenses for service and maintenance. For cost-efficiency, particularly when tax-exempt financing is available for an entire project, it might make sense to invite proposals that address not just sports lighting but also security and convenience lighting for spectator seating areas, walkways and parking lots.

There are sports facility lighting standards set by the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America, which as a guiding principal establishes a class of play, or level of competition, which takes into account such things as ball speed and the number of spectators. There are guidelines for how many foot candles are needed for specific types of sports and facilities, but in Verrone's opinion, they tend to be "a little dated." (In general, 45 to 70 foot candles are recommended for a recreational or amateur sports facility, and in excess of 100 are needed for a professional sporting event.)

Illumination quality is not the only key consideration; structural integrity also is of utmost importance. Wooden utility poles, for example, can succumb to rot, weather and insect damage, presenting structural safety hazards. Also, humidity cycles can cause the pole to warp, thereby throwing off the fixture's aim.

Different situations call for different types of lighting, but in general, "three things make a lighting fixture good or bad," Verrone said.

The first is thermal efficiency. "You want it to run cool," he said. "When things run cool, they last longer."

The second is optical efficiency, which means the fixture harvests light from the light source and throws it down to the playing area as opposed to permitting the light to trespass out of bounds.

The third is electrical, or energy, efficiency. This last measure of performance was particularly important to Scott Chitwood, who co-founded Carolina Courts in Indian Trail, N.C., in January 2009 with partner Ron Esser. Their private facility has five regulation-size basketball courts that double as 10 volleyball courts. Roughly 15 percent

of the time, the space becomes a multipurpose facility, hosting expos and other events, and it can be divided by curtains for more intimacy.

Chitwood wanted lighting with wireless controls that would enable staff to remotely turn off the lights over empty courts and dim the lights when less visually demanding tasks are taking place. The lighting configuration includes 25 fixtures over each court, arranged into five rows. This arrangement, and the wiring, enables staff to shut off entire rows when full-capacity wattage isn't needed for competition.

Energy efficiency is one of several reasons Perry of the Ponds of Brookfield is pioneering the use of fluorescent lighting in an ice rink. (Fluorescents generally "like a warmer temperature" for optimal functionality, Perry said.) According to the manufacturer, the high-efficiency fluorescent lights with several patented features consistently produce 50 percent more light and use 50 percent less energy than other artificial light sources. In Perry's facility, the energy savings are lower, at 15 percent, but that still translates to $9,000 annually.