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From soccer fields and baseball diamonds to tennis courts, sports fields and basketball courts, powerful stadium and field lights as well as narrow beam flood lighting is used to promote safety and extend usable hours. This lighting needs to be adaptable and convenient, providing access to a variety of activities while offering flexible hours. They can be just the thing to revive a community and generate a sense of camaraderie, so they’re always worth investing in.

And, although there are many different factors that account for how good a sports facility is, the unsung hero of the bunch is definitely lighting. Not only does lighting ensure good visibility for spectators and participants, but it also provides a sense of safety after the sun goes down. Lighting, in fact, is becoming an increasingly important element in the renovation of sports facilities and the design of new ones.

In addition to this, sports facility lighting also needs to be designed with the surrounding community in mind. Although you want the light as bright as possible, you don’t want any light pollution to negatively impact the facility’s neighbors.

The way a local field or tennis court is illuminated can have a dramatic effect on those who live near it. In order to help you plan sports lighting that accomplishes all the tasks listed above, without infringing on the lives of the people who live near it, we’ve put together a lighting guide below for both professional and recreational sports facilities.

Baseball Field Lit Up

What you need to know to design sport’s facility lighting

How Will the Facility be Used?

This is perhaps the most important thing to know. Different sports require different light levels, and if your sports facility will host a variety of different sports, then your lighting needs to be able to support that as well. Sports played with smaller balls will require higher light levels. Generally, we recommend 20 fc for outdoor tennis but only 7.5 fc for soccer. In addition to the type of sport, you’ll need to consider whether or not the games played there will be televised or draw a crowd.

Both of these situations present different lighting challenges that should be addressed during planning. The sports lighting you choose should be suitable for both players and spectators and offer different values for light balance, glare, and quality of lighting (CRI), depending on the sport.  Lower uniformity and color rendering are fine for purely recreational facilities, but if there will be cameras in the building, you’ll want to pay much closer attention to these values.

What Will the Facility Activity Levels Be?

This may not seem like it’s related to light, but in a roundabout way, it is extremely important. The facility’s capacity and the spectator spots will of course affect your lighting plant, but the most important thing to look at here is the facility’s burning hours per year. Because this will have a big impact on light maintenance.

We always recommend LEDs because they are superior, energy-efficient bulbs. But their long lifespan is the real shining star here. For sports facilities, that are in use year round, it’s absolutely essential that you have a bulb with a long life. Changing these lights is often a hassle and requires that the facility be temporarily shut down or it has to be down at odd hours. It also requires expensive equipment, which can make it an expensive endeavor.

The less often you have to do this, the better. And, for these reasons, we think that LEDs are the clear choice. Not only is their lifespan much longer, but their lumens remain at a consistent shine for about 70% of the bulb’s life. So you’ll have a long-lasting bulb with a consistent shine for 50,000 hours, on average.

Are There Any Environmental Constraints?

As we mentioned above, the lighting of outdoor sports facilities has a significant effect on the surrounding environment. For this reason, if your sports lighting is for outdoor use, you’ll need to survey the surrounding setting, and in most cases, takes steps to control spill light. This is especially important if you’re near residential streets.

In addition to this, you’ll need to take into account any obstacles such as, furniture, masts, catwalks, stands, other metal structures, etc. These can block light and should therefore be considered when you are coming up with your lighting plan. And finally, you should think about the sports and activities performed there and designate any “safe zones” to ensure that you don’t install lights in these areas.

baseball field lighting led

Lighting The Field Of Play

Horizontal Illuminance

Horizontal Illuminance is how well a horizontal surface is illuminated. This is particularly important to sports field and other playing surfaces because sports are played on horizontal surfaces.

Horizontal illuminance refers to light levels on a horizontal plane, at ground level. Its main function is to provide a bright playing surface, from which players, officials, and spectators, to view the action on the field.

For non-televised lighting events,  an average horizontal illuminance of between 20-50 foot candles is a good target. For televised events, horizontal illuminance takes a back seat to vertical illuminance level. This ensures the televised picture is balanced and not overexposed.  For this reason, instead of a specific foot candle target, you should focus on the ratio of the two illuminance types. This ratio should be as close as possible and not exceed a 0.5 to 2 ratio of horizontal vs vertical illuminance.

Tennis Court After Conversion To Led


In any sporting event, it’s extremely important to establish a level and balanced field of play. And, one of the ways to do this is to provide uniform lighting. Even distribution ensures that there are no dark spots or poorly lit portions on the field of play. Uniformity is expressed as

Min / Max ratio – the minimum foot candle measurement / the highest foot candle measurement

Avg / Min ratio – the average foot candle measurement / the minimum foot candle measurement

Uniformity, by itself, is as important to light levels. Nothing is worst than playing in an unbalanced playing field, for athletes and spectators alike. Even if its a middle school game, you can’t help notice how bad unbalance lighting is as players move from bright to dark sections of the field.

A target of less than 2.0 (avg/min ratio) is a good target to try and achieve.

Vertical illuminance

For sporting facilities, vertical surfaces typically include players, goal posts and officials. All of which are extremely important to viewing the game.

Vertical illuminance not only highlights the players but also whatever ball they’re using. In order to provide the best visuals, and make it possible for the human eye to identify players regardless of direction, you measure vertical illuminance at a height between 48″ and 72″ inches high. 

Even though this is an important aspect of lighting, for most sporting events, there isn’t a required vertical illuminance level. This is because of the complex relationship between vertical and horizontal illuminance. In these cases, you’ll only need to ensure that the horizontal lighting level is correct and apply the ratio we mentioned above. However, if the event is televised, we recommend an average vertical illuminance of somewhere at 100+ foot candles.

Glare Reduction

At some point or another, everyone has seen the affects of glare caused by lighting. Prolonged exposure to glare has been associated with some health issues. It’s for these reasons that the International Commission on Illumination has developed a glare evaluation system specifically for outdoor sports applications.

The CIE 112 Glare Evaluation System outlines a glare rating (GR) scale starting at 10 to an upper end of 90. With this scale, low scores are better. A UGR value of 50 or less is good for sports fields.


This consideration is essentially exclusive to televised events, and especially important for sporting events. This is because anytime a play is shown in slow motion if your lights are flickering at all,  there will noticeable interference with the replay. Keep in mind that although the eye may not be able to pick up flickering at a certain rate, a camera absolutely can.

Flicker is almost a non-issue with LED. Because they are DC Powered lights (the led drivers convert AC to DC), they do not flicker. Other traditional lights sources that did flicker find it hard to compete when it comes to flickering.

Color Properties

The color properties of lights are measured in two different methods.

1. Kelvins (Color Temperature): This refers to the color appearance of the light, i.e. warm or cold. Typically LED lights are cool-toned, but they offer a huge range of customizations, so you can achieve any color temperature.

For sporting field, 4000K and 5000K are good options

2. CRI (Color Rendering Index):  This is a measurement of quality of light. LEDs are excellent at producing high quality light. LEDs CRI start in the 70 range (the total range is 0-100). LEDs are capable of 98 CRI, but this type of CRI levels are more expensive.

Safety Lighting For Players

Pretty much any sport becomes dangerous if not played under the right lighting, but for certain activities, it can quickly become deadly. Having adequate safety lighting for players isn’t only important; it’s absolutely essential. If your facility does not have this, it should not be hosting any sporting events. Safety lighting isn’t designed to facilitate the tempo of the game, but rather to act as a backup if the normal lighting fails or experiences a temporary power shortage.

Other Critical Considerations

Waterproof and Dust Proof

Fixtures installed outdoors need to be protected from the elements. IP (Ingress Protection) is scale designed to measure how well the fixture can keep the fixture safe from dust and water. The higher IP rating, the better it is at dust and water protection.

Surge Protection

Surge Protection is the ability for a fixture to survive an electrical surge. The surge protector has the ability to absorb the surge before it can damage the internal lighting components. Surge protectors have different ratings and abilities. They are designed to absorb different levels of surges. It’s important to note that even the best surge protection cannot survive a direct lightning strike, but can survive a near lightning strike. Adding the right amount of 

Impact Resistance

It is critical to ensure that the lights continue to work if they struck by balls and/or other objects. When choosing fixtures for outdoor sport fields, you want to pay attention to the fixtures IK rating. IK Codes refer to the level of protection available from external mechanical impacts. Therefore, IK Codes for outdoor light fixtures is important to so your fixture can survive the occasional strike from a ball or object. IK codes range from IK00 to IK10. The higher the IK rating, the better impact protection resistance.

Baseball Imf 400

LEDs are Lighting the Way

By now, hopefully, you realize that a great lighting system does more than just illuminate the field of play. Among many other things, good lighting should also make stadium visitors more comfortable in their surroundings and ensure a successful television broadcast for spectators watching at home. But beyond those general guidelines, sports lighting is really quite complex.

International, national, regional, and local competitions all have their different lighting requirements, and recreational sports call for different lighting schemes than competitive and professional events do. In addition to this,  a facility’s capacity and the distance from which spectators are viewing the action also affect the lighting.

The best way to meet all of these challenges is with LED lighting. From their energy-efficiency to their high-quality shine, LEDs are a favorite for sports lighting all over the world. They help manage your bottom line by cutting electrical costs and their more durable composition keeps them safe from swinging rackets and flying balls. In addition to this, LED Sports Lights offers fixtures with a wide range of color temperatures and CRI, so that you can ensure that, if your stadium hosts televised events, that they’ll be seen in their best light by home viewers.

Sport Field Lighting Plan – Get Yours!

Why do you need a sports field lighting plan? A sports field lighting plan report allows you to view how a conversion to LED would turn out before buying any lights. It details light locations and aiming angles, foot candle readings on the field, and how well balanced the light is across the playing surface

We provide free – no obligation – sports field lighting plans for our commercial, industrial and school customers.


Baseball Softball Lighting Plan

About the Author

Neil Peterson is Chief Operating Officer at LED Lighting Supply. He has been active in the LED industry for over 10 years and is responsible for product planning and management as well as revenue and operations at LED Lighting Supply. Much of Neil’s time is focused on customer engagement for large commercial and industrial lighting requirements. When not working, he enjoys family time, camping, fishing, and sports..

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