Above: LED spotlights (image © istockphoto.com/missisya)

Did you know? LEDs last up to 10 times longer than other lighting fixtures.Did you watch Super Bowl XLVII in 2013? If you did, you probably remember not only the power outage that interrupted play in the second quarter, but also how long it took for the lights to come back on once power was restored. Like many sports venues, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans uses older 1000-watt high bay metal halide lights. Although being slow to turn on is definite drawback, these lamps produce more brightness more efficiently than incandescent, halogen, or fluorescent lamps.

Light emitting diode (LED) technology is the promising young rookie in the stadium lighting game. Arguably more efficient than metal halide fixtures, LED lights also solve many of the problems traditionally associated with lighting sports venues.

The veteran: High bay metal halide

Did you know? When switched on, an LED light provides full lighting output immediately, compared to up to several minutes for other types of bulb.Metal halides are one type of high intensity discharge (HID) lamp. “High bay” refers to how these lights are installed on a high ceiling, such as in an arena, or high above an outdoor stadium. Unlike fixtures designed for low ceilings (bays), high bay lights don’t need to be specially designed to spread out light.

Although they produce a very bright light while consuming relatively little energy, high bay metal halide lamps and other HIDs are slow to warm up, lose brightness quickly, and tend to cast a dim, almost yellowish light. The lamps also need to be changed often, incurring significant labour and equipment costs.

The rookie: Light emitting diode (LED)

Newer LED lighting provides an alternative way of lighting arenas and stadiums that is arguably more efficient and effective. For example, LEDs radiate very little heat, and therefore waste less energy than other light sources. Not only are they smaller than HID lights, they provide full light output immediately after being turned on. They also provide a more “white” light, making it easier for both players and fans to see the action.

Did you know? The visible light produced by a lamp is measured in lumens. A compact fluorescent bulb produces about 60 lumens per watt.Quality lighting is also important for television and online broadcasters, especially for high-definition broadcasts and slow-motion replays. Flickering or pulses of light can occur with traditional lighting, but not when LEDs are used. As a result, fans sitting at home have virtually the same view as those in the stands.

Finally, LED lighting helps conserve energy. Although more expensive to install, LEDs require 25-30% less energy to operate and last much longer. As a result, fewer replacement bulbs and less labour is required to maintain them. Sporting venues that use LEDs not only spend less on their electricity bills but they also reduce their carbon emissions significantly.

Because of their durability, energy efficiency, and low temperatures, LEDs are not just used in sports stadiums and arenas. They are also becoming increasingly popular for other uses such as cars and home lighting.

The next time you're at a large sports venue, pay attention to how the action is being lit. Is an efficient LED system being used, or is your team still in the dark ages?


General information

LED lighting plays prominent role in Olympic Games (LEDs Magazine) Life and times of the LED—a 100-year history (Nikolay Zheludev, Nature) New 49ers stadium: Is it really environmentally friendly, or just eco-hype? (Paul Rogers, San Jose Mercury News)

Industry publications

Advanced LED sports lighting (Advanced Lighting) Hockey arenas and sports facilities (Global Induction Lighting) LEDs From Lemnis Lighting Offset Carbon Emissions at the FIFA 2010 World Cup (Green Technology Media) The long history of light-emitting diodes (Hearst Electronic Products)


Carolina earned a Bachelor's degree in Life Sciences from Queen's University. She then continued her studies into graduate school, where she earned a Master's of Science in Anatomy and Cell Biology. She is currently completing her Doctorate in Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, specializing in reproductive sciences and disorders of pregnancy.

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