Lighting an outdoor sports field: LEDs lead the way in efficiency, performance, and quality

outdoor sports lighting

Unless you plan on having all your games on bright, sunny mornings and afternoons, you’re going to need some kind of lighting system at your sports facility. Even if you don’t intend to have games or practices at night, sports construction projects cannot overlook lighting when laying out their costs and needs. The sun won’t always be there for you.

Like any other aspect of construction, the cost of lighting comes down to how much you need. A football field with seating for 20,000 people will need more lux than a soccer training pitch or pair of public tennis courts. 

Lighting has to cover more than just the playing surface itself. The sidelines and seating areas need to be lit. 

These factors affect not just the cost of the lighting system but the overall footprint of the facility: the lighting fixtures have to be offset from the playing field by some distance for both safety and effectiveness. 

If there are seating areas, the fixtures could be part of the stadium structure. The other option, which would also be the case if there are no seating areas, is for the lamps to be installed on light poles. These will need to be built in a sturdy enough foundation to support their weight in all weather conditions. The more lamps you need and the higher the poles, the heavier each pole will be. This will require a stronger foundation for each pole, therefore adding to the cost.

The other infrastructure aspect is the power supply to the lights. If the lights are part of the stadium structure, then much of the wiring is already in place. However, if the playing surface stands apart from other buildings or existing playing areas, then the cost of the lighting system will increase as the electrical system has to be installed from scratch. 

What makes LED lights more cost efficient than halide lamps?

Most sports facilities are opting for LED lighting systems when it comes to time to build or replace. LEDs offer a few overlapping efficiencies compared to the older style halide lights.

LEDs produce more light – more lumens – for less power than halide lamps. For a given illumination, LEDs consume about one-third as much electricity as their predecessors. 

LEDs also focus their light better than halide lamps. This is a factor of how the lights themselves work, and attachments you can install that reflect and channel light in the direction you want. As a result, the light you’re paying for goes where you want it to go – towards the field and spectator areas – instead of scattering all over the place. Not only is scattered light wasteful, it can also be annoying for nearby residents and businesses. If your facility has a halo of light around it, that means you’re lighting up your neighbors’ properties, and they may be trying to sleep or at least set their own lighting ambience. LED lights make for better community relations by greatly reducing light pollution. 

And one more point about the light quality: LEDs have much less glare than halide lights. This creates crisper visual fields for players and fans alike, increasing player safety and performance while improving the spectators’ experience.

Finally, LED systems are not “all or nothing” – you can turn on just those fixtures that you need, in some cases at a less-than-total luminance. This means teams can practice with a lower lighting cost than you’ll have on gameday.

Estimating the costs of an LED lighting system for an outdoor sports field

Installation costs for an LED sports lighting system for a football field range from $200,000 – $800,000. The main factors are the number of lamps, the luminance of the lamps, the size of the poles and the number of poles. 

Once you’ve determined how much light you’ll need, you can estimate your operational costs by multiplying the number of lamps, the power rating of each lamp and how many hours you expect to have them on each week. 

Our cost calculators will give you a solid starting point for the costs of an LED lighting system for a new or existing sports facility. If you have your basic numbers in hand, head over and see what the range will be.