4 Top Innovations in Stadium Lighting

Discover how large sports stadiums are upgrading their lighting using DMX controllers, LEDs, and even Ethernet cables

Over the last few years, there have been a lot of changes to the way that we interact with others. This is especially true when it comes to large gatherings like sporting events. Due to the shutdowns in response to COVID-19, many stadiums have had the opportunity to reimagine the guest experience, employee experience, and athlete experience when they enter a stadium.

One of the ways that stadiums are reimagining the experience of attending a sporting event is through lighting upgrades. Proper lighting is imperative for any venue to have—no matter how large or small. However, stadium lighting needs to exceed the minimum lighting requirements to ensure that everyone involved has a safe and enjoyable experience. To give you an idea of how new and renovated stadiums are achieving more impressive lighting packages than ever before, we’re going over the most recent trends in lighting for stadiums. Keep reading to find out how these large facilities are using DMX lighting controllers, LEDs and other lighting innovations to set their facility lighting apart from older stadiums. Let’s take a look!

  1. Using DMX for Lighting Control

A stadium lighting package requires hundreds of different channels—making it perfect task for a DMX controller

Exterior lighting on London’s Wembley Stadium.

Now more than ever, stadiums are introducing complex lighting packages that span the interior and exterior of the structure. As these packages get increasingly complicated and require more controls to execute, more stadiums are opting to use a DMX controller as their primary lighting control system. In the not-so-distant past, DMX controllers were thought to be exclusively used for stage productions. While they absolutely still are used for touring concerts and shows, they are also being introduced to large buildings as a way to create and carry out complex lighting commands.

A DMX controller is a lighting control system that looks a lot like an audio mixing board. The DMX is used to create commands and adjust the lighting landscape much in the same way someone would use an audio mixing board—but for light color and patterns. There are also software DMX programs that stadiums can use in the same way. In most cases, the type of DMX used depends on technician preference.

Using a DMX allows for lighting technicians to vastly change the lighting by entering only a few commands. Because of this, DMX controlled lighting installations are perfect for special occasions that require themed lighting—like holidays or championship games. Using the DMX, different lighting scenes can be created that add to the visitor experience and make the stadium look even more impressive.

It is important to note that the right kind of light is required to carry out these complex commands—which is why our next section is all about LEDs.

  1. LEDs for Superior Lighting Performance

LED lights are preferable to older lighting methods in every way—which is why they have become industry standard

New stadiums require complex LED lighting packages. Image courtesy of SBNation.

There isn’t any point in using a DMX to control stadium lighting unless you have the right kind of lights that can change on command. In this case—and for most commercial lighting projects—LEDs are the way to go. LEDs are the only type of light that can change color, hue, and brightness on command from a control system. This makes LEDs the top choice both for entertainment and practical lighting applications. From an entertainment perspective, LEDs are able to illuminate the exterior of a stadium and respond to complex lighting commands in real time. This results in an impressive and constantly changing exterior lighting package that can be altered with just a few commands for special occasions.

LEDs also provide better quality lighting, which makes them perfect for practical lighting applications as well. For example, field lighting is essential to the fan experience—after all fans go to a sporting event to see their favorite players on the field. If the lighting is insufficient, it will certainly lead to a poor fan experience. That’s why so many stadiums are opting to use LED lighting across all aspects of their property.

LEDs are able to provide superior lighting control, better quality lighting, and can help save stadiums money on operating costs. LED lights are able to operate on a low voltage without compromising lighting quality, which means that less energy is required to achieve superior lighting. For older stadiums, replacing all lights with LEDs can help the properties reach environmental sustainability goals. 

  1. Connectivity via PoE or IoT

LEDs are able to receive communications from an internal network of devices to create adaptive lighting

Wrigley Field in Chicago illuminated at night.

In some cases, there is no need for lighting to be controlled by a DMX. Since LEDs can receive commands from anywhere, they are able to be fully automated. When LEDs are connected to a network of other devices they can respond to commands from other devices—in this case we’re going to be discussing sensors..

Lighting sensors are important devices that all stadiums should be installing. Using lighting sensors, stadium lights can adapt throughout the day based on changes in natural sunlight. For example, let’s take a property that uses guiding lights installed in the floor to help people find their seats. As the sun begins to set, lighting sensors will communicate with the LED lights so they increase their brightness as the natural light wanes. This adaptive lighting technology ensures maximum safety and visibility by adjusting based on natural light to always provide optimum output.

These adaptive lighting capabilities are made possible by PoE and IoT technology. Though they use different methods to transmit information, they are able to achieve the same results. PoE stands for Power over Ethernet, which means that the sensors communicate with the lights via a hardwired Ethernet cable. IoT stands for Internet of Things, which means that the sensors and lights communicate with each other using WiFi. Both of these technologies have their benefits and drawbacks, so their applications depend on the needs of the stadium. IoT is better for renovations as it is invasive to install ethernet cables as a part of a retrofit. On the other hand, PoE provides a more stable connection than IoT, as WiFi connection is more vulnerable to connectivity issues. The main takeaway is that these communication technologies are able to allow for adaptive lighting across large properties like sports stadiums.

  1. UV-C Lighting for Sanitation

In an effort to curb the spread of disease UV-C lighting has become a preferred lighting method for disinfection

UV-C lights help prevent the spread of disease.

In the last few years, there has been a much greater focus on the spread of disease. Since stadiums are places where large numbers of people gather on a regular basis, there is more focus than ever on disinfection practices. One of the ways that stadiums can ensure that areas like restrooms are safe to use is by installing UV-C lighting. UV-C lighting is not a new concept, as it has been used in schools and healthcare facilities for years. These lights are perfect for any restroom, team locker room, or any other area of the stadium that requires frequent cleaning. While UV-C lighting does not eliminate all bacteria, it helps prevent the spread of disease along with proper cleaning practices. By implementing this lighting, stadiums can help their guests feel safe as they return to live sporting events.

Overall, stadium lighting is an important part of the live sports experience for everyone involved from athletes to fans. In order to provide the best experience possible, stadiums should prioritize new lighting technology. If properties put off installing these lighting fixtures and supplementary devices, the stadium will likely appear out of date. So, to keep with the times, it is highly recommended that any large sporting venue strongly considers upgrading their lighting.

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