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LED sports lighting answers the color tuning challenge for indoor arenas

Sports venues create richer and more engaging atmospheres by changing the color of the facility lighting - a practice referred to as color temperature tuning. While dramatically bathing the floor in red, blue or green light is one type of color tuning, referred to as RGB tuning, indoor sports arenas often employ a much subtler application, shifting the color of the white light illuminating the playing surface to best showcase an event. Changing the color of the white light in a space is called white tuning.

White light exists in many different shades, often identified by its unique color temperature, measured in Kelvin (K). Lower Kelvin values describe warmer, more yellow tones of white light. The light emitted by an incandescent bulb, for example, has a color temperature of 2800K. Higher color temperatures indicate white light that has a cooler, bluish tone. 5600K is generally regarded as the color temperature of daylight at noon.

For multi-use indoor arenas, the color temperature of the white light is an important consideration, because different sporting events look better underneath different shades of white light. The wood tones of the basketball court and the exposed skin of the players look more vibrant under illumination with a warmer white tone, often around 4000K. However, hockey ice appears dull and dirty underneath 4000K lighting, but it looks crisp and clean when illuminated with lights that are 5600K.

The challenge, then, is for facilities that host multiple events to achieve multiple colors of white light using a single lighting system.

The white tuning challenge for indoor areas

Most light sources and light fixtures emit one color of white light at a target light level. Historically, two different lighting systems were needed to light an arena in color temperatures that create optimal conditions for both basketball and hockey events while maintaining the light level on the playing surface. This was often accomplished via a metal halide system with a color temperature around 5000K and a high-pressure sodium lighting system that provided a warmer color temperature light in the range of 2600K-2800K.

The use of two lighting systems was coordinated to achieve the desired color of light on the playing surface. For hockey events, only the 5000K metal halide lights were used to illuminate the ice, generating the coolest color temperature that the system could provide, but still falling short of the optimal 5600K. To warm the color temperature of the light up for basketball games, some of the metal halide lights were used in combination with the available high-pressure sodium system. This blend of the 5000K and 2700K fixtures created a lighting color temperature on the court that fell somewhere within that range. Until recently, this imprecise and imperfect, two-system approach was the only option for arenas hoping to achieve white tuning.

The new LED sports lighting solution

Advancements in LED materials, design and controls have made it possible for one LED fixture to emit different shades of white light. These color-tuning LED sports lighting fixtures combine LED light sources in two distinct color temperatures, 3500K and 6500K, within the fixture and then modify the power to the different-colored diodes to produce a precise color temperature from the blend. Multi-use arenas can now showcase hockey in a 5600K environment and basketball in 4000K, while maintaining an optimal light level on the playing surface. The best part is, all of this is possible to achieve with one energy-efficient, white-tuning LED sports lighting system.