LED Lighting Revolutionizing Outdoor Sports

LED Lighting Revolutionizing Outdoor Sports

The first outdoor night baseball game was played in Massachusetts in 1880, when event organizers erected 36 lamps to generate approximately 90,000 foot-candles of light onto the playing field. Sports promoters quickly came to appreciate how illuminating playing fields would open their sports to a broader audience that would not otherwise be able to attend events during the day when they were working. In the more than 100 years since this first event, metal halide lighting systems became the standard for almost every nighttime sports activity, including not just baseball and football, but also horse racing, skiing, and golf. The creation of LED lighting has revolutionized outdoor sports.

New LED Lighting Systems

Traditional high-intensity metal halide sports lights require more than 50% of the energy that is used by LED systems to generate the same field luminosity. Stadium and event operators strive to control energy costs, and may elect not to host an evening event at an outdoor sports venue if the energy costs cannot be justified. LED lighting systems that use less energy will open those venues to more events, including more evening games that can draw larger crowds than daytime games. 

LED lighting systems are also more robust than traditional metal halide lighting. Traditional systems are prone to uneven surface lighting, and glare from lights has been known to affect the quality of play in both professional and amateur sports contests. LED lighting provides a more evenly lit playing surface, which improves the quality of play and enhances player safety. LED control systems have also advanced to allow more precision spot lighting control, advanced dimming, and rapid on-off capabilities. 

ROI of Sports LED Lighting

The initial investment in an LED lighting system has been perceived to be a barrier to conversion from traditional metal halide lighting, but upfront costs are dropping as new technologies and manufacturing techniques are coming online. Returns on initial investment are improving as stadium operators take energy cost savings more into account. Over the longer term, LED lights can also offer lower maintenance costs. The LED bulbs installed at Duke University’s football stadium, for example, have an expected lifespan of 100,000 hours.  

Operators of large, professional venues may not have the same economic concerns that smaller venues need to consider, but those smaller venues can better justify their existence by emphasizing the more and varied uses that can be found for their venues when lower-cost LED lighting has been installed. In a university environment, these facilities can become self-sustaining, which allows university administrators to broaden the types of sports programs that are available to a student body.

Outdoor sports have potential both as participatory and entertainment events. The scope of both participation and entertainment expands when outdoor sports can be enjoyed during evening hours. Metal halide lighting first unlocked the door to possibilities, and LED lighting continues revolutionizing sports.