Do you remember your first live football game? The bright array of lights encircling the crowd, making it seem as if it were day even in the hours of the dark evening? It’s easy to get excited when we think about lighting for sports. Sports activities are an essential part of our family and community life. Whether we gather indoors or outdoors for sports, artificial lighting is a necessary component in so many ways – extending the hours of play, allowing year-round activity, and providing a high and consistent level of illumination so that we can have the best experience, both as players and as spectators.
LED technology has opened the door for the next big improvement in sports lighting. Compared to metal halide lighting, LED lights have a much longer L70 life, cutting maintenance costs and using far less energy. For example, 300W LED fixtures can replace 1000W metal halides—a 70% reduction in energy use resulting in increased illumination levels.
One aspect that makes sports lighting unique is the number of different groups of people to consider. Below we’ve listed 5 different groups of people and how their needs affect your lighting decision:
1. Players need a high level of crisp, uniform light, good to excellent color rendering, low glare. The lighting should enhance the three-dimensional appearance on the field through the combination of key light and multiple directions of fill light. These are essential both for optimum play and for the player’s safety (the ball can be clearly seen, with no distractions by glare or sharp shadows).
2. Fans have the same lighting needs as the players, but often viewed from above.
3. The media, which can range from amateur video recording to professional recording and TV broadcasting, share the same illuminance requirements as the players and fans, but have an additional requirement for a low flicker rating. How low depends on the recording speed in frames per second and the need for slow motion replay. Media may have specific camera locations which must be individually tested, and the Correlated Color Temperature (CCT) of the lighting fixtures must be consistent with each other. Broadcasting imposes additional demands on the lighting, for example the European Broadcasting Union established the Television Lighting Consistency Index TLCI-2012 based on the properties of commercial video cameras rather than the human eye.
4. Owners and facility managers want all of the above groups to be happy, and they also need very low lumen depreciation and much lower energy costs.
5. Neighbors, drivers and even pilots have a very different need. If the sports field/arena is open and outdoors, the neighbors may experience a high level of “spill lighting,” causing light trespass through their windows. Drivers on adjacent roads will find the glare to be very distracting at night, and even pilots can be affected if the facility is close to an airport approach path.
Each sport has its own specific lighting requirements and considerations. If the ball can carry high in the air, as in baseball or soccer, the space to be lit is not a flat, two-dimensional field, but rather a three-dimensional volume which may extend beyond the lines of play (foul ball!). Contrast and color rendering become critical to the player’s ability to gage the speed and direction of the ball, and even its spin. Multi-sports arenas often involve compromises. Overhead fixtures at swimming pools should not be directed at more than 50 degrees from the vertical to prevent reflection. For retrofits of existing facilities, it is especially critical to develop a 3D rendering and photometric plan, not only to understand the differences between the original and the new lighting, but also to look for problem areas with existing fixture beam angles and locations that were just accepted as the “status quo,” or to anticipate problems such as spill lighting and glare. IES RP-6-15 and many sports associations publish extensive guides covering the special needs of sports lighting.
If you are considering a lighting upgrade for your sports facility, Big Shine LED’s lighting experts can generate a 3D photometric rendering and help you make an informed decision benefitting all parties involved.