Lighting suppliers agree that the demands of sports lighting have changed to deliver better viewing to spectators in large stadiums and meet TV requirements to clearly capture all the action, including reverse angles and replays.

Musco’s Light-Structure Green provides uniform lighting for soccer action at Penn State.
Photo courtesy of Musco Lighting.

Universal Sports Lighting, Inc. (USL), of Atlanta, Ill., serves outdoor sports facilities and indoor arenas with a variety of products. Chuck Lindstrom, president of USL, says, “You only need 30 foot-candles (fc) to see everything needed to play the game of football, but for intercollegiate play and national championship final site television broadcasts, the NCAA requires 125 fc. The great pictures fans watch on those giant electronic scoreboards are possible because the lighting industry is putting banks of lights where they’d never been before, and improving on light output by changing the design of their systems to channel the light more effectively and better target the output. USL’s lighting innovations focus on that strategy to meet the demands of the marketplace.”

Innovation is key for Musco Lighting, Oskaloosa, Iowa, a sports lighting specialist, focusing only on the industry while offering a wide range of products for indoor and outdoor sports applications. Jeff Rogers, vice president of sales for Musco Lighting says, “Musco’s newest innovation, Light-Structure Green, cuts operating costs in half and eliminates 100 percent of routine maintenance costs for 25 years with the Constant 25 product assurance and warranty program. The program covers guaranteed constant light levels, all spot maintenance and group lamp replacement for the next 25 years. All Musco product components are engineered to work together, providing solutions for lighting, electrical and structural needs.”

Better light control also addresses another important sports lighting issue, the light pollution of spill, glare or sky glow. In many areas, government entities have passed legislation to control these types of light pollution. Even without regulations, most facilities installing new lighting or revamping old systems seek to minimize light pollution to reduce the impact it has on surrounding properties, roadways and airports.

Lindstrom says, “USL has developed a state-of-the-art Sports Lighting Reflector, featuring industry-leading, computer-designed, horizontal optics with internal glare/spill control that provides a very sharp cutoff of a beam of light and additionally eliminates that halo of light over the top of the facility.”

Musco credits their unique design for a 50 percent reduction in light pollution over typical floodlight technology. Rogers says, “The Light-Structure Green system uses sophisticated reflector systems and visors to help direct spill light back onto the playing surface.”

Qualite Sports Lighting, Inc., based in Hillsdale, Mich., also offers patented fixture systems, the International, Pro and Gold, all incorporating the company’s reflector design for “more spill and glare control options” to fit the needs of specific field situations. Their systems also include a “patented maintenance diagnostics system” that allows facility operators “to make critical tests from the ground with the power safely turned off.”

Sportable’s new Legacy series scoreboards add creative visual appeal while supplying all the needed information on the action of the game.
Photo courtesy of Sportable Scoreboards.

Costs, efficiency and emissions

With tight budgets, lighting efficiency is essential, and best use of labor resources becomes even more important. Rogers says, “Musco’s Control-Link allows scheduling via Web, phone, fax, or e-mail. This reduces labor costs. It also reduces energy consumption by turning lights on and off closer to game time and eliminating accidental overnight lighting. The monitoring component detects luminaire outages so a repair technician can be dispatched if a lamp needs to be replaced. The system can also track usage data to allow for better facility management and assessment of user fees.”

Qualite Sports Lighting offers a ReQuest System that provides for hands-on control for on-site switching and remote switching and monitoring. They also offer the options of timer or photo sensor-regulated controls.

Energy efficiency and reduced CO2 emissions are increasingly important in sports field lighting. CO2 is emitted by a power plant when generating the total kilowatt hours used by the lighting system. The amount of energy used and CO2 emitted depend on light levels, hours of use, number of fixtures and number of fields.

An ongoing issue within the lighting industry is how to deliver the efficiencies and cost savings, while providing light equal to or greater than the targeted light levels throughout the life of the system. According to Lindstrom, the majority of suppliers follow the recommendations of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IES) Sports and Recreation Areas Design & Application Committee. These recommendations incorporate a percentage of additional light output when a system is installed to compensate for the multiple “Loss Light Factors,” including the aging of the luminaire, to ensure those target light levels long term.

Musco takes a different approach. Rogers says, “Light-Structure Green is able to provide Constant Light by using a series of automatic power adjustments to the luminaire to maintain target light levels for the life of the system. Full power is needed only as depreciation occurs toward the end of a lamp’s life, thus saving energy.”

The USL lighting system keeps light contained for this night baseball game while providing easy viewing for the players.
Photo courtesy of USL.

Check the Web sites of potential lighting suppliers for more details on their innovations and strategies for meeting target light levels.


Innovations have exploded in electronic scoreboards and high-definition video displays with the emergence of LED (light-emitting diode) technology in 1997. The name jumbotron has become common terminology for the massive video screens filling modern stadiums, though Sony stopped JumboTron production in 2001, and today’s industry giants have created their own defining terms. Panasonic has Astrovision, Phillips the Vidiwall and Toshiba the TECHNORAINBOW.

Currently topping the market at Cowboys Stadium is what Guinness World Records has declared “the world’s largest high-definition video display,” confirming that with certification presented on the Monday Night Football pregame ceremony September 28, 2009. The world’s first four-sided, center-hung, high-definition video display in a stadium consists of four Mitsubishi Diamond Vision video screens. The total viewing area is 11.393 square-feet and has 10,584,064 LED lights.

Mitsubishi also reports it installed additional ribbon board for the Dallas Cowboys, making it the largest installation in the market at over 4,000 linear feet to display “graphics animations and scoring data in real-time utilizing ANC’s VisionSOFT control system.”

In April 2009, high-profile competitor Daktronics showcased one more example of its technology at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium, home of the Longhorns, with the “Godzillatron.” Daktronics offers the SSL series of outdoor video displays that can stand alone or team with outdoor scoreboards to provide a local sample of that pro game experience.

This Spectrum scoreboard delivers the information to players and spectators, while earning sponsorship revenues for the school.
Photo courtesy of Spectrum Scoreboards

Sportable Scoreboards, based in Murray, Ky., is one of America’s largest scoreboard manufacturers. Bethany Reeder, marketing manager, says, “Sportable recently launched a highly innovative, one-of-a-kind concept into the scoreboard market: a new line of patented scoreboards that are shaped like sports balls, sports equipment, sports fields, states and even flags. More and more organizations are looking for something unique and unconventional, something that makes them stand out from the crowd. Sportable’s Legacy series does all that, delivering great visual appeal and creativity combined with superior reliability.”

Innovations also are coming from Spectrum Scoreboards/Spectrum Corp., based in Houston, Texas. President Jim Bishop says, “Spectrum now offers several new tennis and soccer scoreboards in addition to a redesigned practice segment timer. These new offerings are easier to read, with much bolder and brighter digits. The overall look is enhanced with school-specific graphics. Spectrum’s two to four-week turnaround time is another customer-pleasing factor.”

For a short-term big splash, some innovations can be rented. Jumbotron Rental offers modular LED screens nationwide, so does GoVision. Their technicians install portable screens composed of Daktronics PST-12HD video panels and use Sony HD production equipment to bring high-definition game broadcasts to fans at sites like the Dallas Cowboys Plaza.

The IES Recommendation Controversy

The Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IES) is a nonaffiliated, nonprofit organization that sets lighting standards and recommendations for a wide range of light uses. IES fills a role for the lighting industry similar to ASTM International, originally known as the American Society for Testing and Materials, which defines itself as, “one of the largest voluntary standards development organizations in the world.” Its F-08 Committee on Sports Equipment and Facilities draws on the input of the industry’s leading scientists, researchers and practitioners to develop standards and recommendations addressing key issues. The IES Sports and Recreation Areas Design & Application Committee issued its recommended practices for this market segment in 2001 in a 106-page document, IES RP-6-01.

Chuck Lindstrom, president of USL, points to an additional IES publication, LM-61, Identifying Operations Factors for Installed HID Luminaires. He says, “It addresses the issues termed, ‘non-recoverable light’ and includes a list of 26 items that could affect in a negative way the difference between the computer-derived predictions and actual field results. The IES states in both LM RP-6-01 and LM-61 that their cumulative negative effect could amount to 15 percent. What the IES deems ‘recoverable light’ refers to normal operational conditions such as lumen loss caused by aging of the lamp and light loss due to dirt accumulation on the lens, lamps and reflector surfaces. IES-based design recognizes both recoverable and non-recoverable light loss factors in determining an appropriate light loss factor (LLF) to provide the system capability of exceeding target light levels for the life of the system, assuming proper maintenance practices are used. The majority of sports lighting suppliers, including USL, follow the IES recommendations when designing and bidding a project.”

Currently, the IES Sports & Recreation RP-6 Revisions (s) 1 Committee is reviewing those previously issued recommendations.

The author is a contributing editor for SportsField Management.