Exclusive Features

First Ever LED Lit Super Bowl

By Jack Keough

For the first time in its history, the Super Bowl Feb. 1 will be played under LED lighting at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. 

“We are excited that so many sports and entertainment venues have seen the light and made the switch to LED lighting over the past two years,” said Mike Lorenz, President of Ephesus Lighting, the company that installed the lighting. “The feedback from fans, players and broadcasters at venues all across North America who are using our LED sports lighting reinforces that LED is the premier lighting solution for sports and entertainment venues.” 

The lighting company and stadium officials say not only will the field be better lit but it will also make it more enjoyable for viewers who are watching the game on their HDTVs. As just one example, the lighting means viewers will not see a “flickering” during slow motion instant replays

Each Ephesus LED light provides a significant increase in illumination compared to traditional metal halide lights like the ones that were installed at the 63,400-seat stadium when it opened in 2006. LED lighting also is said to provide brighter and more uniform light which eliminates shadows on the playing surface, creating a better stage for players as well as for both fans in the stadium and those watching at home. 

Additionally, LED lights can be turned on and off with the flick of a switch, whereas metal halide fixtures require a 20-minute warm-up period. This on/off feature also allows facility operators to create light shows for fan entertainment. Also, LED-based lighting offers numerous benefits to sports venues starting with energy efficiency. Ephesus said the 312 luminaires used in the Phoenix stadium total 310 kW compared to 1240 kW used by the previously-installed 780 metal halide (MH) fixtures — a 75% reduction. The cooler-running LED lights also reduce HVAC expenses.

“The capabilities of LED technology have changed the way we view sports lighting,” said Joe Casper, Founder and CTO of Ephesus Lighting in a statement. “This was a great opportunity to showcase our innovative lighting technology in a venue known as a leader in introducing new ideas to the sports marketplace.”

The switch to LED lighting could not have taken place even a few years ago because LED fixtures were considered too costly, too heavy and could not provide the light levels that a stadium requires. 

“We selected Ephesus after careful consideration of all the other available options,” said Peter Sullivan, general manager and regional vice president for Global Spectrum (a facility management firm) at the University of Phoenix Stadium. “We are confident that their solution will improve lighting for the athletes, fans, and broadcasters, all while reducing energy consumption and eliminating conventional sports lighting maintenance expense.”

The stadium’s maintenance costs for the metal halide lighting system were high. Lighting quality for the HDTV sports broadcasting was a major concern since operators were also conscious of the power outage that occurred at the New Orleans Superdome in 2013 and the long lighting restrike that followed once power was restored. The outage, apparently caused by a newly-installed electrical relay device, caused the game to be delayed by 34 minutes. 

The Arizona project included replacement of the metal halide lights as well as installation of a control system to provide operational efficiency. The LED fixtures are expected to last more than 20 years, saving maintenance costs since there would be no need for re-lamping every few years.

The solution, according to Ephesus, included wired DMX controls on each fixture interface with the control system. This provides instant, one-touch control to switch between different light settings and levels as well as the ability to create “unique fan experience effects.” The increase in light at the surface and uniformity is designed to improve the sports broadcasting experience” and also means camera operators need no adjustments to their equipment to vividly deliver the game to viewers. 

A second NFL team – the Houston Texans – has also switched their stadium to LED lighting. 

The change to LEDs is not only occurring in football stadiums but in other sports arenas as well. Two NHL teams, the Montreal Canadiens and the Carolina Hurricanes, also now have LED lighting.

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