The Evolution of Lighting in Sports Arenas

Every sport requires a well-lit field or stadium, not only for the players’ benefit but also for the fans. That not only goes for those in attendance but those at home, too. If a sports stadium or arena has poor lighting, it’s clearly visible on TV. For example, Madison Square Garden, which opened in 1968, is frequently cited for its poor lighting, and it’s very apparent on TV and in person.

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As more and more sports venues realize the importance of proper lighting, they switch to LED. LEDs are more efficient, last up to 4 times longer than HID (high-intensity discharge) lighting, and provide brighter, higher-quality light. Let’s look at how the lighting in sports arenas has changed over the years and how LEDs have come to be known as the premier sports lighting option.

Early Lighting

In September of 1880, the first baseball game under artificial lighting was played. However, these floodlights were incandescent and barely improved the lighting conditions once night fell. The game was played, but the lack of visibility made it a slow, cautious game.

The first night football game, played in 1892, had a similar experience. The incandescent lights were so dim that the game had to be postponed halfway through. Thankfully, help was on the way.

In the 1930s, Major League Baseball began to incorporate 50-foot tall floodlights to attract fans. These floodlights used tungsten-filament incandescent bulbs and drastically increased attendance. In a time of economic turmoil, this kept the MLB afloat. Without utilizing better lighting, the MLB may have collapsed under the weight of the Great Depression.

New Arrivals

In the early 1960s, a new power in stadium lighting arrived. The metal-halide lamp, which was more efficient and less harsh on the eyes than an incandescent, began to take over as the norm for sports lighting. Floodlights began to appear all over sports, from football and soccer to tennis and basketball. Even racetracks started using these floodlights, but as time went on, it was apparent that the bulbs didn’t last long, and maintenance costs were high.

The white LED light came in the early 90s to fix the problems with traditional HID lighting. The LED provided better, higher-quality lighting and lasted up to 75% longer than the other lighting options. This was a great benefit, as replacing expensive components and bulbs on floodlights can be very costly.

The LED lights look more like natural sunlight, which reduces glare on football and other sports. Many National Hockey League arenas have adopted LED lighting to make the ice whiter and the game more visually appealing because of its vibrant colors.

Over the years, more and more sports venues have adopted LED lighting, reducing their carbon footprint, increasing light quality, and saving money as a result.

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