LED Stadium Lighting Design Considerations in the Planning Phase

led stadium lighting design

When you think of a sports stadium, you can instantly feel the excitement in the air. The athletes on the field, the roaring crowd in the stands, and the anticipation of the game – it’s all electric. And a big part of what creates this feeling is the lighting system. 

Think about it – when you’re watching a game on TV, the quality of the lighting can really affect how exciting or interesting it looks. The same is true for a live game. Good lighting can make all the difference in creating an enjoyable experience for both the fans in the stands and the players on the field.

If you’re responsible for designing the lighting for a sports stadium, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. In this guide, we’ll go over ten essential considerations for stadium lighting design.

1 - Stadium lighting design starts with establishing the use case

The first step in creating a stellar lighting design for a sports stadium is to understand how the space will be used. What kind of events will be held there? Are there any specific requirements that need to be met?

Who are the main users of your stadium?

Will your stadium be used for high school athletes, college athletes, or community recreation? The requirements for each will be different. The types of users will dictate the complexity of your solution. 

In addition to who, you need to consider what will be taking place in your stadium. Will it be used for football games, soccer matches, track meets, or a combination of all three? What competition level will you be hosting? The types of sports you are hosting will play a big role in determining the appropriate lighting solution.

How many spectators will your stadium hold? 

This can be a tricky one to understand, but a general rule of thumb is the more spectators the more lights you need. Having adequate lighting isn’t just for enjoyment, it’s also important for safety.

Will games be broadcast on TV?

If you plan to host televised events, you’ll need to meet specific requirements for broadcast. It’s best to consult with an expert lighting installer who has experience with this to ensure your design will meet the necessary standards.

2 - Are you installing a new stadium lighting system or retrofitting an old one with LEDs?

If you have an existing lighting infrastructure, you will need to complete an audit before retrofitting to LED. This will help you understand what needs to be replaced and what can be reused. It’s important to consider the upfront costs as well as the long-term savings when making this decision.

Typically, when retrofitting for LEDs, there will be some rewiring and reconfiguring required. This is because LEDs have different power requirements than traditional lighting sources. However, it’s usually not a complete overhaul – most existing wiring can be reused. These types of projects can save you a lot of money on labor and parts.

3 - What are the dimensions of the field or court

The size of your field will have a major impact on the lighting system design. Long fields like soccer or football will need different light coverage than a smaller court like tennis. The layout of the field will also come into play – baseball parks have very specific requirements due to the infield, outfield, and stands.

4 - Laying out the stadium lighting poles

The actual layout of your lighting and lighting poles will depend on the size of your stadium. Working with a professional sports lighting designer can help you hone in on the perfect solution. 

When planning your layout, it’s crucial to ensure you have enough space around the field or court. The beam angle needs enough space to maximize coverage and create a soft, even light. In general, you should be looking for a 12 – 60 degree angle for your lights.

The height of the lights should be considered as well. Although there is no “perfect” height, you can expect 25 – 250 ft, depending on the sport.

5 - Choosing the right stadium lighting fixtures

The clear choice for a modern sports field lighting solution is LED fixtures. They are energy efficient, long-lasting, and offer superior light quality.

The cost savings from LEDs are unmatched because they require less power than traditional options. Wattage for LED sports lighting typically ranges between 300W-1000W  — 50-75% fewer watts compared to legacy HID lighting systems.

6 - Amount of illuminance needed for the stadium, sports field, or court

Wondering how much illuminance you need for your stadium? The short answer is it depends. We know you want answers so you can start planning, but every stadium and use case is different. You will need to take into consideration factors such as:

  • The shape of the playing field and stadium
  • The total area that needs to be lit
  • The competition level of the players
  • The capacity of the stadium
  • Requirements for TV broadcast

The IES (Illuminating Engineering Society) is the gold standard for reference when it comes to sports lighting. They classify stadiums and sports fields into four classes based on spectator capacity:

  • Class 1: Arenas with spectator capacity over 5,000
  • Class 2: Arenas with spectator capacity up to 5,000
  • Class 3: Arenas with some provision for spectators
  • Class 4: Arenas with no provision for spectators

Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect per competition level: 

Sport type Class I Class II Class III Class IV
100 fc. / 1,000 lux.
50 fc. / 500 lux.
30 fc. / 300 lux.
20 fc. / 200 lux.
Professional Sports
College Sports
Sports Clubs
Amateur Leagues
High School
Training Facilities
Elementary School

7 - Request a photometric study for your LED stadium lighting solution

To get the best vision for your project, we recommend requesting a photometric study. This report uses computer-generated models to map out light distribution and coverage for your specific application. It’s an essential tool for ensuring your lighting system will perform as expected. 

A photometric study will show things like:

  • Light uniformity across the field
  • The number of lumens needed   
  • The light output of the fixtures
  • The spacing of the fixtures

All professional sports lighting providers will offer photometric studies. It’s vital to ask if your prospective partner has this capability when vetting them for your project. This can be a great differentiator as some companies do not have the in-house expertise to provide this service.

8 - Recommended features for LED stadium lighting systems

Your new sports stadium lighting project will only be a success if it offers your athletes and spectators quality light. That’s why we recommend a few features to elevate the experience. 

The first is LEDs equipped with glare control, which will minimize the amount of light that shines directly into spectators’ eyes. This is crucial for protecting their vision and ensuring they can see the game clearly. 

The next is the ability to dim or schedule your lights. This will give you the flexibility to adjust the light level based on the time of day or night. For example, you can dim the lights during practice to save energy, but turn them up for game time. 

Last is a Lighting Management System (LMS). This is a software solution that gives you complete control over your lighting system. You can schedule, dim, monitor energy usage, and more — all from a central platform.

9 - Choosing the right stadium lighting company for the job

In the world of sports lighting, choosing the lowest bid to save money will only result in a subpar system that doesn’t meet your needs. Instead, focus on the following three criteria when vetting companies for your project: 

  1. Experience: Installing a new lighting system is a big undertaking. You want to partner with a company that has successfully installed similar projects in the past. Ask to see examples of their work and get references you can speak with. 
  2. Capabilities: Not all sports lighting companies are created equal. Make sure your prospective partner has the in-house expertise to handle every aspect of your project, from design to installation to maintenance. 
  3. Support: Your new lighting system is a long-term investment. You want to partner with a company that will be there to support you long after the project is complete. Ask about their maintenance and warranty offerings to get a sense of their commitment to customer service. 

We recommend securing at least three quotes from potential partners before making a decision.

10 - How much budget do you have for the sports lighting project?

Lastly, you need to know what budget you have to work with. This will determine the size and scope of your project, as well as the fixtures and features you can include. 

When you are first crunching numbers and starting to understand the potential price tag for a new LED sports lighting system, it can be overwhelming. But a new LED solution is an investment and will offer your organization long-term savings. 

If you are struggling to cover the cost of your stadium lighting, consider applying for a government grant, or using crowdfunding or sponsorships to raise the necessary funds.

Getting Started with a New LED Stadium Lighting Solution

As you can see,  there’s a lot to consider when it comes to LED stadium lighting design. But if you take the time to do your research and partner with the right company, you’ll be sure to create a system that meets your needs and improves the experience for your athletes and spectators. 

If you’re ready to get started on your own LED stadium lighting we can help. Use our online cost calculator to get an estimate of what your project might cost. We’ll put you in contact with the top lighting professionals in your area.