LEDs Deliver the Sharpest, Most Efficient Super Bowl Yet

LEDs Deliver the Sharpest, Most Efficient Super Bowl Yet

Amber Plante for Zondits, February 5, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX was the most highly rated programming ever shown in the United States, smashing records with 114.4 million viewers. The New England Patriots came away as record-breaking champions for the fourth time since 2001, cementing their legacy as the greatest NFL team of all time. Even Katy Perry’s halftime show (or, should we call it, Missy Elliott’s triumphant return) broke records with 118.5 million viewers.

But none of those was the brightest story of the night.

The University of Phoenix Stadium made history as the host of the first Super Bowl ever played under high efficiency LED lights. The upgrade effort, which took place just prior to the start of this NFL season in September, included the replacement of 780 metal halide lighting fixtures with 320 LEDs. The brighter lights and higher output allowed the decrease in not just fixture number but the money spent to light those fixtures.

Syracuse, New York-based Ephesus Lights, the company behind the high-profile retrofit, estimates that the LEDs have reduced the stadium’s lighting consumption from 1.24 million watts to 310,000 watts, for a complete energy savings of 75%.

To the viewer, the lighting change mostly went unnoticed – but that’s not a bad thing. Under metal halides, the cameras that capture the 18,000 frames per second needed for the slow-motion paybacks can also capture a slight flickering. According to online news site FStoppers, that flickering disappears when LEDs are in use, lending itself to a smoother playback and less distraction from the action.

Powering this change in lighting – other than the cost benefits – was the relative visibility of the Super Bowl. This is, in every respect, the NFL’s highest profile game of the year. Two years ago, the nation erupted into conspiracy theories when the lights went out after the half-time show during Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. Did someone accidentally pull a plug? Was Tom Cruise executing a Mission: Impossible-style heist? Was Beyoncé so hot she literally blew the circuits? Anxious not to have a repeat performance from substandard lights, the NFL actually intervened to help the University of Phoenix Stadium with the LED upgrades.

Though the Glendale, Arizona, stadium is the first NFL venue to retrofit its entire lighting catalog to higher efficiency options, there are a number of other stadiums that use partial LED lighting options. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco (the first professional football facility to achieve LEED Gold certification) uses 40% LED lighting, and NRG Stadium in Houston installed 480 luminaires with 650,000 individual LEDs to help light the playing field.

In addition to the NFL’s recent moves to embrace LEDs, some rinks within the American Hockey League (AHL) have adopted high efficiency lighting, including the Utica Memorial Auditorium, home of the Utica Comets (Vancouver Canucks). The Jan. 26 AHL All-Star Game, played at that venue, was also lit with LEDs from Ephesus Lighting.