Light Up The Night

“Presently, the most efficient court-lighting equipment uses pulse-start metal-halide lamps in a vertical burning position, in combination with technologically advanced reflector systems. This type of product produces a higher overall light output, which allows the option of using lower-wattage lamps. Many new court lighting systems are utilizing 750-watt or 875-watt pulse-start metal-halide fixtures in lieu of the 1,000-watt metal-halide fixtures typically used in the past, while obtaining the same or higher levels of illumination.”

Have an “energy audit” of your facility, which can be performed by a professional. What is often revealed is that relatively easy changes can be made that will still help greatly in making the facility greener.

Changes to products on the market have resulted in new energy-saving options. Tracy Lynch of Lee Tennis Products notes that his company has been seeing interest in its lighting system, which also provides higher lighting levels with lower-wattage lamps, “meaning better light to play tennis under while using less electricity.”

Lighting Options

In facilities that are open at night, lights can be set to operate on a timer, or they can be operated by a push-button system an employee can manipulate. It is also advisable to have motion-activated lighting in and around the facility. Not only do such lights provide for safer entry and exit, but they are a good way to tell whether an unauthorized person is at the facility.

Because these lights turn themselves off when they are not needed, energy costs are lowered, and lighting the facility all night is avoided.

Technology can be a planner’s friend, according to Mike Limpach of Musco Sports Lighting LLC, based in Oskaloosa, Iowa.

“Advanced controls that adjust for the setting of the sun on a daily basis as well are now being used to manage lighting systems,” he notes. “These are very energy-efficient.”

In addition, notes Sam Fisher of Fisher Tracks Inc., in Boone, Iowa, lighting can be tailored to suit the needs of a specific user.

“One of the biggest questions or inquiries I am finding today is more safety and public-related. Many are asking for a lower set of light or lights that can provide enough illumination for the casual walker or jogger. This also becomes a safety issue. Some are actually asking if the lighting can be operated in a manner similar to systems one is used to finding on tennis courts, in which the athlete who is using the facility can actually turn the lights on and off for himself or herself. Some of these lighting systems will actually stay on for just so long until engaged again, and/or they turn off at a certain time.”

Rules And Regulations

Most of the governing bodies give light recommendations in a unit of light intensity referred to as a footcandle. In general, the higher the level of play, the more light is required.

If a facility is to host competitive play, ascertain which governing body is responsible (examples are the NCAA, the National Federation of State High School Associations, Little League Baseball, etc.), and obtain a copy of any rules and/or regulations pertaining to lighting. Remember that rules can change from year to year, so make sure you have current information.

“More and more facilities are being used for multiple sports, and for both practice and competition,” notes Ed Norton of Holcombe Norton Partners in Birmingham, Ala.

“Circuiting the lighting system for varying degrees of illumination, depending on how the facility is being used, can save on energy costs. For example, in soccer, where 75 footcandles or higher may be preferable for competition, 50 footcandles or lower can be adequate for daily practice. The uniformity of the system must be maintained for all light levels, but there is no sense using fixtures you don’t need.”

A common concern in areas where sports facilities are located near houses is a phenomenon known as “light trespass”; in other words, the spill of bright light into houses and yards can disturb residents. If lighting is being planned or retrofitted anywhere near residences, meetings should be held to involve the local community at the outset, in order to avoid complaints later.

An engineer who specializes in illumination can help guide this process and make recommendations. Another avenue to investigate is the International Dark Sky Association, which makes recommendations for neighborhood-friendly lighting. Many of today’s lighting systems are being designed to comply.

“Sports lighting involves projecting light over long distances,” says Mike Limpach.

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