This post was written by Keith Dawson for UBM Tech’s community Web site All LED Lighting, sponsored by Philips Lumileds. It is archived here for informational purposes only because the All LED Lighting site may go dark at any time. This material is Copyright 2013-2015 by UBM Americas.

2013-10-22

Hockey Under LED Lights

A major-league sports stadium in Montreal got its main lights upgraded to LEDs recently, the first on the North American continent to do so. The ROI is getting there.

You would think that the advantages and the energy efficiency of LED lights would be an obvious sell for sports stadiums, which spend hundreds of thousands of dollars per year on energy to light their playing surfaces.

But the big franchises have been studying and resisting a major move to LEDs for some time now. The ROI for big conversions in stadiums is three years or more, according to a survey that ran recently in The New York Times. One operations director at a basketball stadium is quoted as being reluctant to take a seven-to-10-year ROI to his boss.

Some hockey teams share a stadium with a basketball team, and the leagues have different lighting rules, the NYT pointed out. Leagues have to approve manufacturers for reliability and cost.

Canadians lead the way
Still, the operator of Montreal's Bell Center, home to the Montreal Canadians, was talking about ROI in two to three years after the stadium's $700,000 lighting upgrade went public late last year. (The Canadians own their own stadium.)

In the Bell Center's case, the upgrade was motivated not so much by the savings as by the drawbacks and the increasing obsolescence of the HID lights the LEDs replaced. The Bell Center had been constructed in 1996, and the HID lights were state-of-the-art at that time. But by 2011 the center was having trouble locating replacement hardware. After the lights were dimmed at halftime, they took four or five minutes to return to full brightness. There were hot spots and shadows on the ice. The heat put off by the HID fixtures made maintaining the ice more difficult. And broadcasters were unhappy with the flicker and color shift the old lights introduced, which looked especially bad in high definition.

Montreal-area company LED Innovation Design agreed to design LED lighting to meet the needs of the Bell Center for spectators and broadcasters. The result is Lidlum Sport, which consumes 65 percent less power than the old HID fixtures and is controllable (via DMX 512 or a proprietary control system). CCT can be tuned from 4,700K to 6,500K, intensity is settable (with four presets at 0 percent, 33 percent, 66 percent, and 100 percent), and the CRI is 90. The lights can be strobed and sequenced. They put 1,800 lux evenly over the ice surface, up from the 900 lux the HID fixtures produced.

Be sure to watch the video at the bottom of the previous link to hear a Canadian hockey executive talking about the benefits of the new lights.

The LEDs must be designed for low flicker, because television producers are happy with the way the stadium looks in high-definition. And as far as I know the goalies aren't complaining about the puck moving four diameters in between times when they catch sight of it, as our own Ron Amok calculated for a 120-Hz flicker.

It seems to me that with the existence proof of the Bell Center before them, major sports franchises may be near a tipping point for adopting LED lighting.

— Keith Dawson Circle me on Google+ Follow me on Twitter Visit my LinkedIn page, Editor-in-Chief, All LED Lighting