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Three decades ago, as part of its preparations for hosting the Summer Olympics, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum partnered with Musco — the Official Supplier of Lighting to the 1984 Olympic Games — for the installation of a new lighting system for opening ceremonies and track and field competition.

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LED floodlighting revolution Q and A with OSRAM

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The OSRAM subsidiary Siteco has installed high definition television compliant sports lighting with LED technology in the Ratiopharm multifunctional arena in Ulm, Germany. Do you see this as a ground-breaking installation?

The solution in Ulm was drawn up together with the arena’s general contractors and the current operator Max Bögl from Neumarkt. Max Bögl has the experience and capability to very precisely estimate the costs for maintenance and operation of a lighting installation with conventional lamps. In view of this we developed a luminaire that meets the demands of the international basketball association in terms of light quantity and quality

After one year an evaluation of the operating costs showed that the higher costs for the LED floodlight systems compared to standard lighting systems certainly paid off. It has become apparent after one year that the costs are amortised over the coming years. The LED luminaires need around a third less energy than conventional lighting solutions, and individual control capability of the Siteco LED floodlights via DMX ensures enormous flexibility and enables both event-based lighting (for concerts for example) and stepless dimming according to requirements (for training purposes and similar uses).

It’s for this reason that we can clearly identify the progression of LED with indoor sports venues, in terms of long operating durations and multifunctional use. However, standard light sources such as fluorescent lamps and discharge lamps still have their merits though because they have significantly lower purchase costs.

How important is your relationship with general contractors and architects on these projects?

The network of architects and general contractors is certainly important so that the benefits of new technical solutions can be passed on as quickly as possible to end users. Communication in this sense runs in both directions – we get ideas or suggestions from the networks about what the market requires and in which direction the market will develop.

What are the main advantages of using LED lighting in sports venues?

LEDs have the advantage of low connected loads but that’s not all. LEDs and their requisite drivers are specified to last at least 50,000 hours, and this means almost maintenance-free operation of the luminaires for more than 12 years with a daily use of 12 hours. The luminaires have to be cleaned now and again of course, but compared to the average service life of a 1,000W discharge lamp of 6,000 to 8,000 hours, significantly lower maintenance costs are the result. Also, with power interruption an LED luminaire can be immediately switched on again. Emergency lighting operation is also feasible, meaning that a supplementary emergency lighting installation is not required. Another factor is that, with intelligent light control systems from our company, lighting effects (‘la ola’ waves, flashes etc) can be created.

The subjective impression of glare is a lot lower with LEDs compared to projectors. Flicker-free operation (even with super slow motion) is a further advantage of LED.

Are there any lighting innovations currently being researched which could become integral to stadiums or arenas in the future?

Well, we assume that the need in the near future for flicker-free light will assert itself in major stadiums in the high performance sports spectrum. I cannot yet say, however, when LEDs will become a proper alternative to the current projectors with discharge lamps – the financial outlay involved and also the space requirements on the catwalks or masts is significantly higher to achieve identical photometric values on the playing field.

Is there still a need to educate people in the sports venue industry about the advantages of LED lighting? Is it cost-prohibitive at the moment for many venues to use?

Explaining to these people is absolutely necessary, because often apples are compared to oranges. Unfortunately, at the moment there are no binding directives for luminaire manufacturers about which specifications should be made available on their data sheets. This means that in the market, luminous flux specifications for luminaires are given that actually only correspond to the total luminous flux levels of the individual LEDs, and do not represent the luminous flux emitted from the luminaire as a single unit (including all optical and electrical losses). The current situation is that many companies now offer LED luminaires, and these companies purchase components on the global market but don’t really have a deep knowledge of genuine sports lighting. This is why customers should be very thorough when deciding about partners working with them as part of a project.

Despite the progress in LED technology, it makes no sense today to stop working with conventional fluorescent lamps and discharge lamps in certain sports facilities. An economic feasibility calculation prior to the decision about which lighting system should be installed is an absolute necessity. In such cases, OSRAM and Siteco are glad to offer their expertise.

Modern sports venues today have to be increasingly flexible in the range of sporting events that they offer as a way to maximise their revenue streams. What challenges does this give to a lighting solution provider? Was it is this change in venue lighting requirements that motivated you as a company to become a complete solution provider?

Well, as a manufacturer and lighting planner, we’ve always had a large portfolio for all applications in sports venues. Although in many projects we concentrate on field lighting and tribune lighting, we also supply complete project solutions.

With our affiliate company Traxon we’re able to design facades as well as decorative RGB solutions for architectural lighting. Our lighting designers draw up design approaches together with the architects that ensure precisely the right atmosphere for lobbies, or supply functional LED road lighting for spectators coming from or going to the parking lots.

As a company, OSRAM has successfully worked on many high profile sports projects. Can you give us the names of some of your most notable projects?

You can find our lighting solutions in many major stadiums throughout the world. For example, we were able to prove the depth of our expertise at the World Championships in South Africa (four stadiums, including Cape Town), or currently in Brazil in Belo Horizonte, and in Sao Paulo in the Corinthians stadium. We’ll also be working in Saudi Arabia in October this year where we’ll be setting the projectors in the Main Stadium of the King Abdullah Sports City

LED lighting is also playing an increasingly important role in the illumination and branding of the external facade of a sports venue. Is this an area where OSRAM and its subsidiaries are active as well?

One of the first stadiums with a completely illuminated facade was most definitely the Allianz Arena in Munich, where we still worked with conventional fluorescent lamp solutions. Facades such as the Warsaw National Stadium or Lima that are all based on LED are deemed to be the technical standard today, and are carried out by our affiliate company Traxon.

Are you looking to work on future sports projects on a global basis? Which upcoming sporting events are you targeting as potential opportunities?

OSRAM is a company represented throughout the world. This means we will also be keeping close tabs on the international sports market and following the corresponding events. I hope you’ll understand that we cannot communicate specific details about our activities. But of course we will offer our expertise to all major sports events like Olympic Games, Soccer World Cups and other big sports event.

Are there any lighting innovations currently being researched which could become integral to stadiums or arenas in the future?

Well, we assume that the need in the near future for flicker-free light will assert itself in major stadiums in the high performance sports spectrum. I cannot yet say though when LEDs will become a proper alternative to the current projectors with discharge lamps – the financial effort involved and also the space requirements on the catwalks or masts is significantly higher to achieve identical photometric values on the playing field.