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Lighting the ice: why adaptive sports lighting is ideal for hockey arenas

For professional sports, the quality of lighting can be the difference between a big win and a disappointing loss. The fate of the game depends on accuracy and precision, not only from the players, but also from the referees and the overall experience for viewers and fans. Lighting makes all of this possible.

We caught up with Jim Sarsoy, chief operating officer of Syracuse Crunch, to learn more about how intelligent sports lighting is changing the game. In 2012, the Syracuse Crunch were the first American Hockey League team to install an Ephesus LED sports lighting solution. This fall, they upgraded to the new Ephesus Lumadapt system.

Why are adaptive LED lights the ideal solution for sports arenas and stadiums?

JS: Adaptive LEDs use the most advanced lighting technology there is. While I’m not a lighting expert, I know it’s more than just a series of fixtures spread throughout your facility. Everything is connected, and everything is controllable. Since you can add or expand over time, the system can be as simple or robust as you need it to be. People notice the lights — the cameramen, the fans, the players — and they provide a more enjoyable experience for everyone.

How have you seen smart LED lighting evolve over time?

JS: We came from a building where we had lights so old that when you turned them off, it took 15 to 20 minutes to turn them back on. The amount of heat they produced was so extreme that you could feel a marked difference in temperature when you stood under the lights. They even caused soft spots in the ice.

Since 2012, when we were the first arena to install Ephesus’ LED sports lighting system, the best part has always been the reactions from all the fans and patrons who come through our space. As cliché as it sounds, the difference was like night and day.

Now, six years later, we’ve updated our system again. The best parts about the new system are its controllability and connectivity features, not to mention the full range of colors from the built-in RGBA light system that allows us to put on our pregame light show.

How do adaptive LED lights impact players and sports professionals during games and practices on the ice?

JS: Sporting events are nearly impossible without proper lighting. It’s not only a requirement for players, but also for coaches and referees. I get the most feedback after practices, when players and coaches are not in the throes of a game. The players report less shadowing and clearer views, which are two of the most important lighting features for sports facilities. The referees have also noticed a difference. One of the biggest thrills is traveling around with our team to different arenas — or hearing from referees who work different facilities — and knowing that we have the most cutting-edge lights in the game. It gives our entire team a sense of pride, both when we’re playing under our lights and when we’re away and can tell the difference.

How do advanced LED lighting systems enhance the game presentation for live fans and those watching on TV?

JS: Since we installed the Lumadapt system in fall 2018, we are completely shadowless. The lights are optimized for HD, 4K and 8K broadcasts, so you can produce super-slow-motion replays without any loss of quality whatsoever. Our television producers over at Spectrum were blown away by how clearly images showed through the cameras. In addition to the lighting, we are now a five-camera production, which provides us with more angles and opportunities to capture the action of the game.

How do intelligent LED lighting systems help future-proof sports facilities?

JS: The flexibility this new lighting system gives us is out of this world. From the automated light show we put on before every game to the ease of usability for all the shifts we need to make between periods, Ephesus’ Lumadapt system offers full control in the palm of your hand. With all the upgrades we’ve made recently, I can comfortably say that we’re at the top of our sport when it comes to facilities. The Lumadapt system is one that can grow with you. Even with our first installation in 2012, we were ahead of the game. Being an American Hockey League team — versus a National Hockey League team — the association with such an advanced product puts us in the position to garner attention and notoriety. Our lights really separate us from anyone else in the American Hockey League.