Lighting designers are always looking for inspiration for applying light
in sports stadia, and one area that has caught their attention is the rise
of new events.
“We have partnered with X Games and esports, so are always
looking for what the next generation of sporting events are doing and
how you can apply light to improve the show,” says Musco’s Jeff Rogers.
The rise of esports – professional video gaming, which is becoming
a hugely popular spectator sport – has led to some innovative lighting
ideas that can translate to other sporting codes and their venues.
UK-based White Light was asked to turn a movie theater in Fulham,
London, into an esports arena for the Gfinity Elite Series.
“We needed to turn an empty space into an immersive gaming
environment that featured three custom-built stages and would house
a sold-out arena of gaming fanatics,” explains White Light project
manager Tom Cass.
“When the players enter the gaming arena, they walk through a
hexagon tunnel. We lined the walls with LED video tubes and
positioned LED tape on the exterior. Similarly, as the players walked
to their gaming booths, we installed pixel flex on the staircase in order
to perpetuate the mesmerizing effect created by the tunnel.”
It is not just professional clubs that are using lighting
for added effects reveals ME Engineers’ Scott Gerard.
“We now have colleges that want to change the
color of the dome for team colors, or they want to flash
purple when somebody scores or does something on
“The biggest trend is for more color and more
dancing lights, and this started with the NBA with its
choreographed shows and now everybody wants to
do this sort of thing.
“LED has made this possible. It is not that we are
just replacing lights with lights, you are able to do so
much more. We will continue to see more of this,
especially at the professional level. They want to
integrate music and have both light and sound
speaking to the audience,” adds Gerard.
While operation managers may be pleased with the
lower electricity bills and maintenance costs of modern
LED systems, this trend towards using lighting beyond
just illuminating the pitch does come with a cost.
“Lighting is not cheap. It costs a lot more to install
lights now than did 20 years ago, but then the lights are
doing a lot more,” admits Gerard.
He says it can cost US$2-3m for a new lighting
project, involving up to 400 lights – each one made up
of hundreds of quarter-inch LEDs.
“It used to be you had the venue, the broadcasters
and the players involved when installing the lights, but
now you have the entertainment and marketing groups
all the teams employ that also want to get involved.”
“You can spend a couple of weeks getting the
balance right and then you can spend weeks and weeks
trying to sort all this dynamic stuff out, the colors and
Gerard explains that this is all done with electronic
“The lights are fixed where they are fixed, and this
is dependent on the type of sport. We have glare zones,
so for instance you don’t want a light opposite a corner
at a soccer game, and there’s different rules for different
sports,” he says.
“LED technology is getting better and better and
there’s a lot more technical aspects to them now. If you
think of lights in a home it’s a warm type of light, but
for outdoors lighting is usually colder.
“But we can now change lights from warm for say a
basketball game, to the colder blue lights when you are
playing hockey, and all without changing the bulbs –
the flexibility is amazing.”
The technology is improving all the time, but there
are still hurdles to overcome with LED lighting.
“It used to be there was difficulties with glare
because you have all these tiny light sources, but now
we have better optics,” says Gerard.
“The challenge now is reducing shadows. You don’t
notice when you are at the game so much, but when
you are watching high definition on TV you can clearly
see the four shadows on the pitch, so the next challenge
is better uniformity of light. This means more light
sources and more angles.”
“It is improving all the time,” adds Rogers. “The
lumens per watt has gotten better and better and the
stability of the technology – it is well manufactured and
when it is delivered to market it is very robust.”
But is there a lighting system out there that will
eventually replace LED?
“I don’t think so,” says Midstream’s James Brunt. “I
don’t think there’s anything emerging beyond LED
right now. LED goes above and beyond everything
broadcasters and venues need.” n
Lighting design at esports events
presents new challenges as well as
new opportunities to bring those
ideas into areas of other sports
50 www.stadia-magazine.com March 2020