No matter the sport, and no matter the level of ability, lighting is now a significant consideration for stadiums of all kinds. Irrespective of whether it’s the final of the FIFA World Cup or a lower-league tie on a frosty Friday night, the quality of a stadium’s lighting goes a long way to dictating the quality of the experience for viewers, fans, and athletes alike.
Not all sports lighting is the same, of course, and even similar products from a single vendor can produce very different results when employed ineffectively. In this post, we’re taking a look at the subject of sports stadium lighting and offering some key tips on how to maximise the success of your own solution.
Why good lighting matters
The important word here is “good”. Almost any floodlight manufactured within the past couple of decades will be capable of illuminating a stadium environment to some degree – but that doesn’t mean that the quality will be at an appropriate level.
What is “appropriate” can change dramatically depending on the venue but, broadly speaking, there are three overarching issues to take into account when thinking about lighting:
- Is the solution you’re using going to be sufficient for your athletes or players? Will they be able to operate at the same kind of level that they would in natural daylight?
- Does that system give spectators what they need in terms of visibility? Can they see what’s happening on the track or field clearly, no matter where they’re sat?
- Is your stadium well-lit enough to ensure the safety of competing professionals? This is particularly important for fast-moving and contact sports.
These are all crucial factors to address when evaluating your lighting needs.
Televised sport adds another dimension
In addition to the above, and where relevant, it’s important to consider broadcast coverage. In the last decade in particular, certain changes in regard to sports broadcasting mean that some stadium lighting solutions need to meet very specific requirements. With slow-motion and UHD video now commonplace, high power, flicker-free lighting solutions need to be in place in order to give the cameras what they need.
Even at lower levels, the proliferation of livestreaming means that many teams and venues have an entirely new way to connect with fans, particularly those who are located some way away. Good lighting can help to facilitate that connection.
LEDs offer a perfect solution for sports lighting needs
The lights used in modern stadiums come from a wider category known as “sports lighting”. The majority of stadium lighting systems being manufactured today use LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes), though some vendors do still build their lights using metal halide lamps. These lamps are an increasingly outdated form of technology, and one that has been proven to be far less energy efficient than LED.
Because they need to illuminate large areas, stadium lights usually rely on very high power LEDs. At the highest grade of the soccer stadium lighting regulations outlined by UEFA, for instance, horizontal lighting levels need to be 1,400 lux or above. That’s more than 10 times the amount that the FA stipulates for the majority of games in the National League.
Positioning has a big impact on quality
To deliver the best lighting levels possible, stadium lights also tend to be affixed to either a stand or a mast, typically mounted between 40 and 60ft above the ground – though, at bigger venues, it’s not uncommon to find lights as high as 100ft. Common mast configurations usually include one in each of the four corners, with either one or two masts running down each of the sidelines for a total of six or eight respectively.
Because of the distance between the light and the pitch, small beam angles of between 12-60° are used to keep the light focused and intense. The actual type and number of luminaires (individual floodlight units) required normally depends on the specific circumstances of a stadium, and the sport being hosted there.
Lighting requirements can differ drastically between sports
While lighting layouts between stadiums often have a lot in common, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach – particularly between different disciplines. Much of the variance comes down to the nature of the sport itself; in hockey, for instance, the pace of the game and the size of the ball demands a standard of illumination that wouldn’t necessarily apply on a football pitch.
If you’d like to learn more about some of the specific stadium lighting considerations across different sports, why not take a look at our dedicated pages below?
Power usage varies, but can be predicted
For a stadium lighting solution to be as effective as possible, it needs to be designed with an actual venue’s requirements in mind. Take a football stadium as an example: there can be corner lighting, side lighting in both six and eight column configurations, and even grandstand lighting. Ultimately, the layout needs to work with that stadium’s specific needs.
Because of that, there’s no single answer to the question of how much power stadium lights will use. It’s a variable, and one that can change from stadium to stadium and even country to country depending on energy prices. That said, there are two things to consider when it comes to lighting costs.
Firstly, energy costs can always be predicted using a fairly basic calculations. Take the total number of luminaires and multiply that by the amount of energy that one luminaire requires (i.e. 1.18kW). Multiply the result by the current per hour kW rate (i.e. £0.20) and then, finally, multiply that value by the number of hours that your lights run for in an average year. That will give you a fairly reliable forecast of your annual running costs.
Secondly, and as mentioned above, LED lights offer many advantages over older options like metal halide. Not only are they cheaper and cleaner to run overall, they can also be switched on and off instantly, meaning they can be powered down between matches or events. LEDs are also dimmable, so they can be run on a lower power setting when circumstances allow.
Help is often available
One last thing to bear in mind when it comes to cost is that many sports governing bodies – particularly in the fields of football, rugby, and tennis – now offer grants as a way to help fund new and more energy-efficient stadium lighting solutions.
At Midstream, we’ve helped a number of our sports customers around the world apply for and secure funding for their LED stadium lighting upgrades, so it’s a benefit that’s well worth exploring if you’re looking to take your own venue to the next level.