Katie McIntyre discusses the evolution and consequent revolution of the LED sports lighting sector with Mike Lorenz, President of Eaton’s Ephesus Lighting business, which boasts such world-renowned venue clients as the Rod Laver Arena, University of Phoenix Stadium, U.S. Bank Stadium and Martinsville Speedway.
In regard to the benefits that Eaton’s Ephesus Lighting products afford, what kinds of energy savings do your products deliver?
An average sports arena or stadium that replaces its metal halide lights with Eaton’s digital lighting solution will typically experience a 75 percent reduction in energy costs. Additionally, it requires little to no maintenance for years.
How do your products enhance the viewing experience for fans and the playing field for athletes/performers?
Eaton’s Ephesus LED sports lighting solution provides a high quality of light. The playing field is uniformly lit without glare, hot spots or unintended shadows. Additionally, since our LED fixtures maintain quality, the lighting looks the same on day one, day 100 and day 1,000.
When it comes to today’s modern venues, it’s all about multi functionality. How can your products optimise entertainment features for concerts and other non-sporting events?
The multi-functionality of our system is one of the primary reasons our LED lighting solutions have been so well received by multi-use venues. Eaton’s patented colour temperature tuning capabilities allows it to accommodate the lighting needs of a wide range of events with just the push of a button. For example, for hockey venues, operators prefer cool lighting, which helps to make colours contrast with the ice, while for basketball, they choose a warmer lighting colour to enhance the players’ skin tones.
The system can also be programmed to provide a unique lighting environment and fan entertainment features for different types of concerts and other non-sports events.
What kinds of control systems do Eaton’s Ephesus Lighting solutions feature?
We offer a variety of capabilities, which provides dynamic scenes and effects to add to the fan experience. We can also provide full colour flooding lights so the venue can be illuminated in nearly any colour imaginable, for special events and fan experience effects. This is enabled through wired or wireless control systems that can interface with other venue systems, yet are able to be used through intuitive touch screens or customer-supplied tablets and other devices.
We have the capability to provide systems with active health and status monitoring of the entire installation, so operators can be alerted to a potential problem before it results in a fixture outage, as well as review data on operating temperature, power consumption and other metrics.
What types of LED solutions do you offer to smaller venues, like municipal fields, practice/training fields, etc.?
As we were helping to lead the industry revolution from metal halide to LED, it immediately became apparent to us that the needs of professional sports venues were much different than those of municipal sports facilities. That’s why we introduced the Ephesus All Field product line in 2016.
The All Field product provides a high-quality, cost-effective, versatile and controllable outdoor LED sports lighting solution for municipal fields, high schools and colleges. Engineered to satisfy specific needs, its multiple mounting options, low weight and low effective projected area (EPA), make it the first LED fixture designed to easily retrofit into existing sports lighting infrastructure to dramatically reduce installation costs. The enhanced engineered optics efficiently deliver uniform light on the field to significantly reduce unwanted light spill and sky glow.
We’ve witnessed exponential growth in the use of LED lighting at pro/college sports venues in the US since 2012. What were the main drivers for this?
After we illuminated the first professional sports arena with LED lighting, an industry that had not changed for more than 50 years was suddenly disrupted. The first challenge was to educate sports facility operators of the benefits of LED lighting. Energy savings was the initial driver of the market as this became an easy sell for facility operators to explain to management. But once team executives learned that our LED lighting solution could enhance the game presentation and fan experience, both for fans in the venue and at home watching on HDTV, the floodgates opened.
Although energy and cost savings are still important product benefits, they rarely drive purchases by professional sports venue operators at this point. Team executives and facility operators are laser focused on providing the best environment for their players to perform and fans to experience at an event, and our LED lighting solution helps accomplish both these goals.
How did a relative newcomer like Eaton’s Ephesus Lighting business grow to be the industry leader?
One of the advantages we had when we became the first company to light a sports arena with LED lighting in 2012 is that we were not a lighting company, but rather a technology company in search of a better solution. We approached lighting from a completely different mind-set, and without certain limitations that might inhibit people from a more traditional lighting background. While the industry leaders were claiming that LED lighting was still years away, we were leading the revolution. We have always thought differently and, therefore haven’t been limited by the way traditional lighting companies think about lighting.
When it comes to the international sports venue sector, what are the challenges and opportunities that Eaton has identified?
We see huge opportunities for international growth. When the Ephesus business was acquired by Eaton in 2015, the international market became a reality. In fact, last year our fixtures were installed at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, home of the Australian Open. With the newly gained resources and relationships available as part of a global power management company, we are excited about our future beyond North America.
Looking forward, what types of new innovations can we look forward to?
We have many exciting innovations in the works, but our focus is always on evolving our products to meet the needs of the market – even before customers know they need it. One area we are very optimistic about, and a hot topic for teams and leagues, is player performance. Our engineers are working on a system that can help gather this data. Our goal is that once our digital lighting solution is installed in a sports venue, it can serve as an ‘eye in the sky’ for any player performance data the team or league wants to acquire. We also see room for further innovation on our control options.
Please tell us a little about 2-3 of your major/signature sports venue clients, including details on the Ephesus LED lighting systems from Eaton that they are employing?
We have been fortunate to lead the LED lighting revolution for the sports industry and have been selected to light over 25 professional venues worldwide covering baseball, football, hockey, basketball, tennis and NASCAR.
With more than 500 professional and major college sports venues in our portfolio, we have plenty of signature venues. The University of Phoenix Stadium is very special to us, as it was our first professional sports stadium venue and hosted the first LED-lit Super Bowl. This year, U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis became the first new stadium to use LEDs for sports lighting and they chose to work with the Eaton team. And finally, we were honoured to be selected this year to make the historic Martinsville Speedway the first NASCAR track lit with LEDs.