Outdoor athletic events are very popular throughout the world not only for the athletes that participate on the field but also for the many fans and spectators that attend them. Whether it’s a little league baseball game or a professional soccer match, or even a concert, events held at night need to have powerful lights to illuminate such large outdoor spaces.

And powerful lights aren’t all you need. These lights will need to be mounted on light poles for sports and athletic fields that can be up to 100 feet tall and can hold up to 12 fixtures each.

If you have an outdoor stadium, you may be all too familiar with how costly HID lights (such as Metal Halide and High Pressure Sodium) are. They have short lifespans, and at half-life, have lost much of their available lumens to light degradation. Strike times are long, up to 30 minutes, and energy costs are high.

Ball fields and stadiums could greatly benefit from using LED Lights. They can replace the most powerful metal halide sports lights. Not only that, but they can also provide you with 60% or greater energy savings.

Baseball Imf 400

But that’s not all they can do for you. Other advantages include:

  • Traditional HID lights that are normally used for sports field lighting require a “warm-up” time to reach their full brightness when turned on. LED lights don’t have this issue and they reach their full brightness instantly.
  • The lifespan of an LED light is far longer than anything else, up to 100,000 hours in some cases. This makes them practically maintenance-free because their lamps rarely need to be replaced.
  • LED light quality is superior to the others, and it stays that way because it takes much longer for the quality to degrade.
  • LED lights are dimmable. HIDs? Not so much. This is another way that they save on energy costs.

Now, what might come out as tricky is the method of upgrading the current light system with LED Lights. You may want to know all about the process, the important factors, the right way to start, and much more. We also suggest you check out: Buyer’s Guide to Lighting a Baseball Field and Softball Field

1. Lighting Plans are the #1 Key to Success

With so many lighting options available now, where do you start? Do you pick a light based on watts? Lumens? 

We believe that choosing lights by watts alone is a recipe for disaster. Lumens are a better gauge than watts because lumens are a representation of light, whereas watts are a representation of electricity consumed.

But if you don’t understand the optic of the light, and what it will do, there’s a high probability that you’re not going to be happy with the results. You would be surprised how many times we are asked to fix bad LED Purchases.

Our best advice is to start with a Stadium or Sports Field Lighting Plan. It allows you to see the results on the field without ever spending a single dollar. The software can be altered to add more lights, remove lights, and refocus lights until the field is properly lit and balanced. The lighting plan will show you what lights to use, and even where to aim them on the field. The right optic is chosen, and the right lumens.  This eliminates all the guesswork.

It is also important to consider the actual design of of the facilities. Over time there has been significant design refinements of courts, fields and stadiums.

Takeaway: The biggest thing a lighting plan will provide is proof that the playing field is bright enough and the light is balanced and even across the field.


Baseball Softball Lighting Plan

Let us Calculate an Ideal Stadium Lighting Layout Using Your Foot Candle Requirement.
Get a Free Lighting Plan Today.

2. LED Lights are Powerful Enough to Replace Metal Halide.

You may have a ball stadium that currently uses either 1000-Watt or 1500-Watt Metal Halides. And being able to replace Metal Halide with LED makes sense if you don’t have to add more fixtures than you currently have. Here’s a simple guide to the lumens required to replace Metal Halide.

  • 1000 Watts Metal Halide: 50,000 to 60,000 LED Lumens
  • 1500 Watts Metal Halide:  80,000 to 90,000 LED Lumens
  • 2000 Watts Metal Halide: 110,000 + LED Lumens


3. Narrow Beam Optics are the Key to Lighting a Sports Field

The main difference between standard outdoor lights and stadium lights is the use of narrow beam angles that allow light to be focused on specific areas of a field. This is far different from traditional “flood” style lighting, where wide beams of light are used to spread light over a large area. For stadium lighting, narrow beams of light from one source illuminates a specific area on the field. Each light has a specific job. Collectively, all the lights together provide the light levels and light balance to properly illuminate a field.

Takeaway: Choosing the right optic for YOUR application is one of the most important decisions. Fortunately, we can make that process easy (read #3 below).


Nema Beam Spread Classifications

Beam Description NEMA Type Beam Spread in Degrees
Very narrow 1 10°- 18°
Narrow 2 18°- 29°
Medium narrow 3 29°- 46°
Medium 4 46°- 70°
Medium wide 5 70°- 100°
Wide 6 100°- 130°
Very Wide 7 130° and above

A Real-world Example of How Beam Angles Work.

Here are 5 simulations. Each simulation illuminates an area 100 ft wide by 200 ft long. There are 2 lights mounted on poles that are 30 feet high. The fixture aiming remains the same for each simulation, the only thing that changes is the beam angle. We use a 400-Watt IMF Flood fixture for these 5 examples.

10 Degree Beam Angle

Flood Light With 10 Degree Beam Angle

15 Degree Beam Angle

Flood Light With 15 Degree Beam Angle

30 Degree Beam Angle

Flood Light With 30 Degree Beam Angle

45 Degree Beam Angle

Flood Light With 45 Degree Beam Angle

60 Degree Beam Angle

Flood Light With 60 Degree Beam Angle

4. How Many Foot Candles Do You Need to Light up Your Sports Field?

Here are the suggested foot candles (fc) based on our experience designing and helping our customers convert over to LED.

Baseball and Softball Fields

Outfield FC Infield FC Outfield FCs (Max/Min) Infield FCs (Max/Min)
Collegiate (Televised) 70 100 2.5 2
Collegiate 50 70 2.5 2
High School 30 50 2.5 2
Little League 30 50 2.5 2
Recreational 20 30 2.5 2

Football Fields

Location Ideal Light Levels in foot candles
Recreational Football 20 – 30
Middle School 30 – 50
Small High School 30 – 50
Larger High School 50 – 70
College 80-150

Soccer Fields

Location Ideal Light Levels in foot candles
Recreational Soccer 20 – 30
Middle School Soccer 30 – 50
Small High School Soccer 30 – 50
Larger High School Soccer 40 – 70
College 50-100

Tennis Courts

Tennis Level Suggested Foot Candles
Recreation Level Lighting 20 – 35
Club Level Tennis Lighting 30 – 60
Competition Level Tennis Lighting 50 – 80
College / NCAA Level Tennis Lighting (televised) 90 – 120

What is the Lumen Output of Stadium Lights?

LED stadium lights start at about 60,000 lumens to replace a 1500-watt metal halide and can go up to 150,000 lumens. The amount of light from these fixtures will differ from the light on the ground, otherwise known as foot candles.

5. What is the Best Color Temperature for Stadiums and Sports Fields?

LEDs are available commercially between the color temperatures of 2700K up to 6500K. For stadium lighting, 4000K or 5000K are your two best choices.

Takeaway: 98% of all lights that we sell, and customers ask for, are 5000K. We believe it’s the best choice for metal halide replacement.

Color Temperature Bulbs

6. Make Sure the Lights Have Been Tested to Withstand Rain and Snow

The specification you are looking for is called IP Rating. An optimal wet weather rating starts at IP65 and goes to IP68. IP69K has a wash-down rating and is not needed for outdoor lights. Many of the stadium lights you will find on this site are rated IP65 or higher.

Takeaway: Make sure the lights you purchase are at least IP65 or higher.



7. What is CRI and How it Matter for Sports Field and Stadium Lighting?

Quality of light is measured by CRI or Color Rendering Index. Understand that CRI denotes the quality of light whereas lumens denote the quantity of light. People and objects look better under high-quality light.

  • Objects and items appear yellowish under High Pressure Sodium (2200K) light. HPS has a poor CRI.
  • Objects look more natural under LED, whose CRI ranges from 70 to 95+.

Takeaway: The higher the quality of light, the less quantity of light is required. Look for lights with a CRI of 70 or above.

light bulbs cri

8. Know Your Input Voltage

With LED, there are two common ranges of voltage for lights. Standard Voltage and High Voltage. Understanding the voltage you have will ensure you order the right LED driver that will accommodate the  voltage at your sports field. LED drivers are designed to automatically adjust to the incoming voltage.

So, for example, a 100-277V driver will auto-adjust to 120V, 240V, or 277V.

  • The standard voltage is 100-277V.
  • High Voltage can either be 277-480V or 347-480V.

9. How to Determine if a Sports  Field / Stadium Light Has the Quality You Need

Quality applies to several things. First, there is the quality of the product. The quality of the product is one that has been certified safety tested under UL or ETL. It has at least a 5-year warranty and a lifespan that matches the warranty. You should certainly expect a well-built, high-quality Stadium Light to last at least 10-15 years and require little if no maintenance.

Quality also applies to the supplier, the company that supplies you with the lights. The supplier should have a long record of being in business and providing exceptional service pre- and post-sales. They should be the people you call if there are warranty issues, and not push you off to somebody else. At LED Lighting Supply, we have a strong history of backing our customers and have excellent reviews that attest to this belief in providing our customers with the best options and best service.

Dwayne Kula

Linkedin Facebook Twitter Youtube Instagram

About the Author

Dwayne Kula is President of LED Lighting Supply. On any given day, Dwayne is writing content for the site and helps manage the marketing initiatives that are on-going. He has a Software Engineering degree and still dabbles in writing software for the company as needed. When not working, he enjoys spending time with his family, working out, playing the occasional game of golf and exploring New England.

See more posts by Dwayne Kula