At the Nashville Predators first preseason game on Sept. 20, if the colors of the players’ jerseys seem brighter or if the definition of the puck against the ice looks crisper, your eyes won’t be romanticizing the situation after a long layoff, it’ll be reality.
Over the next two weeks, Bridgestone Arena will become the sixth NHL venue to install a light-emitting diode (LED) lighting system, replacing the 247 metal halide fixtures used for the past 18 years with less than 120 LED fixtures from Ephesus Lighting. The upgraded lighting structure will offer a laundry list of benefits to the arena and patrons, including: enhanced in-game presentation, energy savings, greater climate control which will lead to better ice conditions, truer color temperatures broadcast on television and even increased clarity for fans attending a hockey game or show.
“Everything will look better and crisper,” Predators Senior Director of Broadcasting and Entertainment Bob Kohl said. “The LEDs give you a more natural light color, so at the arena or on TV, the colors pop more, there aren’t shadows on the ice and we have a lot more control over the lighting.”
Unlike the old, metal halide lighting system, which takes time to fully power on and lacks dimming control, the LEDs at Bridgestone Arena can be powered on in an instant, are dimmable from zero to 100 percent and feature an array of color options.
“They’re all DMX compatible, which means we can plug them into a lighting board and create scenes, we can create chases, we can create virtually anything we want with these lights,” Predators Vice President of Facility Operations Tim Friedenberger said. “They’ll be incorporated into our pregame show and intermissions. You name it.”
“What this allows us to do is take game presentation to a new level, simply because we can now instantly turn on or turn off the lights,” said Kohl. “If you want the whole arena dark with a special light on the band stage, now you can accentuate that person while the Zamboni is doing its thing, and really make it special, and still have the lights come instantly on as soon as the players are taking the ice.”
Kohl says to imagine the ice painted with purple light during the intermission of a Hockey Fights Cancer game or a much more dazzling national anthem ceremony - now with the LED lighting system - it’s all possible. LEDs won’t only be in the bowl either, they’ll also be placed outside on the front lip of the building in order to turn the arena gold on a Golden Saturday, for example.
While the Predators will continue to get more creative in utilizing the new lighting structure over the coming days and weeks, the immediate and practical payoffs will be perhaps the most exciting elements of the upgrade.
“[LED] makes everything brighter, the ice whiter and the colors pop out more,” Julien BriseBois, assistant general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, told SI.com in July. “It is easier to track the puck and easier to track it in the air.”
“That's true for fans sitting in mid-level seats as well as players digging it out of corners that are no longer shrouded in shadow,” the article goes on to say.
Consistent (unflickering) light from the LEDs, as well as easily adjusted color temperatures, are the primary reasons LED lights can be seen by the naked eye as the superior option over the metal halide fixtures still used in the majority of sporting venues. Combine that with the benefits to the environment and lower operating costs and Friedenberger said it was an easy choice to add the LED lights to list of upgrades at Bridgestone Arena completed this summer. Rare are the features that benefit fans, players and arena, but the Predators and Bridgestone Arena have found another one, and that’s pretty easy to see.
“These lights are a huge addition on top of all the things we’ve done this summer for arena upgrades,” Bridgestone Arena Senior Vice President of Booking David Kells said. “From the new seats, bathroom renovations and the lights, these are tactile things that fans can sit in, wash their hands with and they’ll be able to see the in-game difference that the new lighting will make. That’s pretty exciting right there.”