Grand Exhibition of the Electric Light

Grand Exhibition of the Electric Light

Sports lighting has come a long way since over 18,000 spectators gathered at the MCG in 1879 to witness the first footy match under lights in this country. It wasn’t the teams that attracted them – they weren’t league clubs – but the experience of watching sport under electric light. The carbon arc lights, like the talent, were not an unqualified success with one report saying, “from a light point of view, and football too, it was not so good, the illuminating being scarcely sufficient and its distribution hardly so judicious as it might have been…”. (Peter Pindar, The Australasian, August 9, 1879)

Final frontier

One of the final frontiers for LEDs has been stadium lighting. Metal halides still hold sway at the GABBA, the SCG, Adelaide Oval and the MCG. But all recently built major stadiums now incorporate LED into their design as a matter of course. The Perth Stadium has done away with old fashioned light towers and illuminates the huge AFL/cricket field with directional LEDs built into the stadium roof.

Elite sports

The advantages of LED have led to them being adopted all over the world for elite sports. Many of the new stadiums at Russia’s World Cup were lit by LED. The first NFL Superbowl was played under LED in 2015. The EPL’s newest stadium, the home ground of Tottenham, uses solid state lighting. Even the larger major league baseball venues are steadily converting. It is not so much the efficiency of the technology that is the most important factor, but the quality of the light that has driven its adoption. Energy savings are clearly welcome, but lighting with extremely minimal flicker to facilitate slow motion replays is the clincher.

Celebrate goals

Metal halide has reached its peak and is now being superseded by LED because that’s where the research and development is focused. And as sports stadiums become multi-purpose entertainment venues they are embracing the flexibility of easily programmable lights to enhance the spectator experience. For instance, Adelaide Oval has kept with metal halide for its light towers, but uses LEDs to celebrate goals and such like with light shows. With its gradual warm up and cool down time metal halide can’t do that and, as LED keeps improving, metal halide will go the way of the carbon arc lights that lit the MCG action back in 1879.

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