Every Pitch, Every Hit, Every Play – See it Better With LED Baseball Field Lighting
America’s pastime is characterized by sudden bursts of high-speed action. Whether it’s a high-90s heater, a double smoked into the gap or a close play at first, the game can change in a blink.
This quick-developing action means high quality lighting is a must for baseball stadiums. The better the lighting, the easier it will be for players and spectators to follow everything. For the fans, that’s a matter of entertainment. For the player, though, quality baseball field lighting is what ensures safe play is possible.
Four Important Considerations for Baseball Field Lighting
There are several things to keep in mind when setting up lighting for a baseball field, including:
- The amount of illumination at field-level – Lighting intensity is typically measured using footcandles. Footcandles are a non-standard unit of measurement and describe the intensity of light produced by one candle, one foot away from the source.In a baseball context, field-level brightness is the primary concern for lighting installers. Minimum footcandle thresholds must be met to ensure the ball can be easily tracked as it rockets through the air. Brighter lights improve player reaction times and the fan experience.
- The illumination’s uniformity – If there are significant variances in lighting intensity across the baseball field (30 percent of more, in terms of footcandles), this can interfere with play. Shadows and hotspots may be subtle, or even unnoticeable until the baseball is hit or thrown hard. At higher speeds, slight differences in lighting intensity can alter how the ball is perceived in flight, resulting in potential safety issues.
- The lighting’s quality – Another concern is the light’s ability to accurately display color. Termed high-CRI lighting, these fixtures are better at rendering a larger range of color values. During a baseball game, players and fans track the ball partly because it’s a bright white object. High-CRI LED lighting displays those bright white hues better than its lower CRI counterparts. The result is better visibility.
- The amount of glare – Glare can be a major safety or performance problem on the field, as it can temporarily blind players as they move. And while not a safety hazards for fans, it’s still obnoxious.Modern LED lights are built with optics that improve lighting distribution patterns, so the illumination is only aimed where it’s needed. Further, LED fixtures can be shielded, which blocks the light from being cast in certain directions. Shielding is also effective for minimizing light pollution and trespass, which can help with lighting code compliance.
There are other factors to consider. For example, some baseball field lighting technologies require more maintenance than others. Metal halide lamps, a long-time first option for sports stadiums, must be replaced every 10,000 hours or so, which means a lot of maintenance. LED sportslighters will provide 5-10 times the lifespan of a metal halide, making them practically maintenance-free for several years following installation.
How a Photometric Analysis Can Help Guide Baseball Field Lighting Installation
There are general guidelines in place for selecting and arranging baseball field lighting. In general, less light is required for smaller fields and games with a slower pace of play. For Little League and high school play, 50 footcandles is the accepted threshold for infield lighting. In the outfield, 30 footcandles is usually sufficient. At the college level, though, 70 footcandles in the infield and 50 footcandles in the outfield is recommended. These numbers are even higher if the game is to be televised.
Nailing down those footcandle values is impossible through guesswork alone. Instead, baseball field lighting professionals use photometric analysis to visualize and optimize a new system.
There are several advantages to a detailed photometric analysis, and it’s a good start for any lighting project. For example, such an analysis can help with:
- Determining the right luminaries to use – During photometric modeling, the lighting designer can choose from a library of lighting fixtures to model the system. The software reads lighting data associated with each luminaire to precisely calculate lighting intensity and other metrics at each location.We rely on 400W – 750W LED sportslighters, which are the equivalent of 1000W – 2000W metal halides. They’re capable of instant-on functionality and offer flicker-free illumination quality.
- Determining the optimal lighting pole and fixture placement – Photometric analysis is also used to position each lamp. The goal is to meet performance requirements while minimizing the number of lamps, fixtures and poles required. We find that a four or six-pole arrangement is sufficient, with two positioned behind home plate, and two or four arranged around the outfield, depending on the field’s size.
- Ensuring sufficient brightness and uniformity – Photometric analysis computes footcandle values down to the square foot, so lighting designers can verify adequate brightness at every spot in the field.
- Avoiding light pollution and trespass – Photometric analysis can also model the amount of light extending outside of the project area. This trespass can be a problem if there are neighbors nearby, and lighting codes may prohibit a certain amount of lighting pollution. Photometric analysis can model how much light falls outside of the project area, so adjustments can be made to minimize it.
Photometric analysis is handled using specialized design software. It can be used to develop 2D birds-eye view maps or complex 3D lighting models. In both cases, the software builds its visualizations using precise mathematical modeling. In other words, numerical values corresponding to lighting intensity are calculated for every square foot of space. It’s a far more precise way of designing a baseball field lighting system.
Baseball Was Meant to Be Played Under Bright Lights
Baseball’s high velocity nature demands high quality illumination. LED fixtures can provide that quality illumination in a low maintenance, energy efficient package. Once installed, a new LED baseball lighting system will provide years of reliable performance. Add it all up and it is clear why venues from neighborhood parks to MLB stadiums are adopting the technology.
And with a professional photometric analysis, an LED lighting system can be optimized for any baseball field with precision.