Feature Article - November 2009
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Audio & Illumination

Space-Specific, Sport-Specific

By Dawn Klingensmith

Fluorescents Gain Favor

Energy-efficiency is just one reason fluorescents are winning fans in the sports and recreation sectors. Ten years ago, fluorescents weren't suitable for most sports venues and applications because the technology, at the time, didn't meet all the demands—though their advantages were clear in other usages. Nowadays, compared with metal halides, fluorescents can offer more consistent performance, Perry attested.

Toward the end of their lifespan, the brightness of metal halide lights drops off dramatically. Diminishing quickly but at different rates, end-of-life metal halide lamps disperse light unequally, with a brighter patch here and a dimmer patch there. This overtaxes the eye and makes it difficult to track the hockey puck, Perry said.

Also, because of metal halides' end-of-life behavior, when a single bulb burned out, Perry had to replace the remaining 65 bulbs over the ice because the difference in brightness was distracting at best and unsafe at worst.

In addition, high-intensity discharge lighting systems produce a buzzing sound when in operation and cast a yellowish light, "which is not good for sports because being able to see clearly is so important," said Linda Diedrich, director of corporate communications for the Manitowoc, Wis., manufacturer that outfitted the Ponds of Brookfield Ice Arena, as well as Carolina Courts. "Our high-efficiency fluorescents produce crisp, clean, clear light."

A perceived advantage of metal halides over fluorescents is they direct light where it's desired almost in a spotlight manner, whereas fluorescents are generally more dispersive, so Perry was somewhat concerned that fluorescent lighting would be too diffused by the time it dropped down from the 26-foot ceiling to the surface of the ice. However, "The entire ice sheet is bathed in constant, consistent lighting," he said, adding that he has since become an "evangelist" for the use of high-efficiency, high-quality fluorescent lighting in ice arenas.

With the advancement of fluorescent lighting technology come other energy-saving innovations, such as tubular skylights, or solar light tubes, which passively harvest sunlight from a rooftop to illuminate a facility, without the heat gain associated with traditional skylights. "They put out more light than any fixture and are fantastic for gyms and auditoriums," Verrone said.

Plus, they have ambient light sensors so if the lighting level drops below a certain number of foot candles, artificial lights automatically turn on.

Equipping sports venues with sound and lighting can be a difficult process involving research, decision making and finger crossing. But remember, the end result is all about fun and excitement. Consider the thrilling add-on at Shakopee High School in Shakopee, Minn. As part of a comprehensive audio upgrade, the Electronic Design Co., based in Shoreview, Minn., mounted subwoofers beneath the home bleachers. Because the seating is built into a hill, the bass frequencies bounce off the slope and travel across the field to the visitors' seating. But the best part is that the thunderous bass produces a "butt-shaking" effect. It just goes to show that good sound can truly move people.