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Seeing the Light: Sports Stadiums All Over the Country Switching to LEDs

June 10, 2016

If you watch Major League Baseball (MLB) games on television or in person this summer, you may notice something different about the field: It’s brighter than ever. The change could be due to a new flat screen or your laser eye surgery. But it’s more likely due to new LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights, which are increasingly the lighting option of choice in stadiums, baseball and other, around the country.

Two Federal Way, WA, companies have a lot to do with this LED revolution. PLANLED, a lighting solutions provider, and GigaTera, a lighting systems manufacturer, teamed up to replace Yankee Stadium’s halide lights with a state-of-the-art LED system for the start of the 2016 season.

Yankee Stadium_lights

After witnessing the light quality and cost savings enjoyed by Safeco Field (the Mariners were the first MLB stadium to change to LEDs in 2015), Yankee executives opted for a similar system. Three other major league baseball teams –San Diego, Houston, and Texas – also recently overhauled their field lighting.

Why now? LED technology has improved vastly over the last decade. LED lights are both high performing and energy efficient. In the last few years their cost has decreased significantly. LED systems now exceed stringent Major League Baseball lighting requirements and offer significant cost savings. They also offer indirect environmental benefits. LEDs can be recycled or refurbished more easily than metal halides. Unlike metal halides, they do not contain mercury, a troubling chemical to dispose of.

The above claims of superior performance are being backed by hard numbers. During an April webinar hosted by the Green Sports Alliance (GSA), two vice presidents of Ballpark Operations — Joe Myrha with the Seattle Mariners and Doug Behar with the New York Yankees — praised the measureable energy and light quality benefits of the new lighting systems.

At Safeco, Myrha said that LEDs improved infield illumination by about 39 percent and outfield illumination by about 28 percent. (To measure illuminance, fields typically use a unit called the foot-candle, equivalent to the illumination produced by a source of one candle at a distance of one foot). At Yankee Stadium, Behar noted that foot-candle levels increased in the outfield by 45 to 50 percent, and in the infield by 25 to 30 percent. LEDs use multiple narrow beams of light to produce brighter and more uniform illumination than metal halide fixtures. Subsequently, the new lighting improved the broadcast quality of games. In other words, the light quality is better for fans in the park, players, and the millions of folks watching games on television.

safeco field lightsThe new systems are also saving stadiums energy and money. LEDs are 20 percent brighter than metal halides while using about 60 percent fewer watts. Over the course of 81 home games (and special events) such improved efficiency means a savings of about half a million kwH per year. At Yankee Stadium, according to Behar, electricity demand has decreased by about 47 percent.

Cost savings accrue because of LEDs long lifetime and minimal maintenance requirements. At Montreal’s Bell Center, the first National Hockey League (NHL) arena to install LEDs, the new system has not lost any light intensity after four years of operation. On average, LEDs last three times as long as their metal halide predecessors. Xavier Luydlin, VP Operations and Labor Relations at the Bell Center, estimates that the arena received a return on its lighting investment in under two years.

On the Green Sports Blog, Lew Blaustein gives a number of examples of LED adopters in sports. One notable aspect of the list: small stadiums, with fewer capital resources than major league teams and large universities, are also making the switch and reaping rewards. For example, take Union College’s 2,350-seat hockey arena, historically one of the biggest energy hogs on campus. The new lights are expected to reduce energy use by over 350,000 kilowatt hours annually and shave about $35,000 off the annual energy bill.

The benefits of LEDs are now available for all to see.

Here’s a list provided by the GSA of venues currently using LED technology with many more expected to follow:

  1. STAPLES Center (LA Kings, Lakers, Clippers)*
  2. Bell Centre (Montreal Canadiens)*
  3. University of Phoenix Stadium (Arizona Cardinals)*
  4. Munn Ice Arena (Michigan St.)
  5. Pegula Ice Arena (Penn St.)*
  6. Oncenter War Memorial Arena (Syracuse Crunch, AHL)
  7. Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena (Binghamton Senators, AHL)
  8. Webster Bank Arena (Bridgeport Sound Tigers, AHL)
  9. BMO Harris Bank Center (Rockford Ice Hogs, AHL)
  10. Ricoh Coliseum (Toronto Marlies, AHL)
  11. NRG Stadium (Texans)
  12. Wells Fargo Arena (ASU)*
  13. Wells Fargo Center (Philadelphia Flyers) *
  14. Rutgers Athletic Center
  15. PNC Arena (Carolina Hurricanes)*
  16. Robins Center (U. Richmond)
  17. Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center (Notre Dame)
  18. Yankee Stadium* (New York Yankees)
  19. Arthur Ashe Stadium (USTA)*
  20. Safeco Field (Seattle Mariners)*



-Cyrus Philbrick

Communications Manager

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