Case Study: Spartan Bowl Lighting Project

From Dim Prospects to Bright Savings

Lighting Solution Opportunity

Connersville High School’s sports teams are the crown jewels of their small, tight-knit community in Connersville, Indiana. On game

Before updating the Spartan Bowl

Before updating the Spartan Bowl

nights, town residents swarm to the Spartan Bowl — one of the largest gymnasiums in the state — to cheer for their beloved Spartans, just as they’ve done since the first game in 1958. Only they often couldn’t see the action on the court for minutes at a time.

As it happened, lighting in the Spartan Bowl was fraught with obstacles. The existing 26 fixtures — 400-watt metal halide high-bay lights — had grown dim over time, costing the school considerable time, utility and maintenance costs as the fixtures aged.

In fact, lighting at the Spartan Bowl neared 30 foot-candles (fc) when they should have been at 70+ fc for varsity basketball. But that wasn’t the worst of it. Turning the lights to full capacity took a full eight minutes, forcing school officials to choreograph athletic events and other ceremonies around this pesky delay.

It was a ritual Brent Duncan, athletic director for the Spartans, knew well: “In the past, as soon as we brought the kids out for the pregame activities, we turned the lights down and whipped spotlights around the Bowl, trying to time it just right to allow for the lights to cool down and come back up,” says Duncan. “At times, we’ve had to introduce opponents in the dark.” Officials would often stand on the floor, holding the ball, waiting for the lights to come to full brightness. “Our superintendent had a few calls from frustrated patrons,” he recalls.

In all, the fixtures’ dim output, low energy efficiency and costly maintenance brought diminishing returns for the school’s investment. Rather, the school sought to redirect that investment to newer technology that not only performed better, but was easier (and cheaper) to maintain.

Athletic Facility Lighting Solution

ffFollowing a referral from another school that had completed a successful LED gymnasium lighting project, Connersville High School engaged CM Buck & Associates and Cree lighting specialists to find a solution to its lighting woes. CM Buck and Cree proposed swapping existing fixtures for Cree CXB 23K lumen high-bay fixtures with a 4000K color temperature, boosting light levels from 30 to 70 fc with improved color rendering, while cutting energy consumption in half.

The full project was completed within a month after the school first considered adopting Cree lights. “From the time we placed the order to the finished installation wasn’t more than a couple of weeks,” Duncan recalls. “We were happy with how quick and seamless the process was.”

The 1-for-1 swap of existing 400-watt metal halide fixtures to LED used the same mounting and junction boxes, enabling an easy installation that pleased John Green, facilities director. “I couldn’t have asked for a better lighting retrofit,” he says. “The whole process worked out really well — without a hitch.”

As an added bonus, the Cree CXB series is DesignLights Consortium listed, qualifying the project for utility rebates. Throughout the project, Cree worked with school officials to secure those rebates, reducing the project cost and allowing for a quicker payback.

LED Lighting Athletic Facility Benefits

Ask CHS officials, students and patrons, and they’ll tell you: The new light fixtures have made a significant difference in how they experience the Spartan Bowl and the return for their investment — like night and day, as the saying goes.

The most visible improvement is the instant light output at the flick of a switch. “With LED technology, fixtures are now ‘instant on’ and ‘instant full,’” Green explains. “We can turn the lights completely off, have the spotlights on the team for introductions, then kick them to full in an instant.”

And, boy, are they bright. “When contractors were replacing the fixtures, half of the gym looked like we were standing in broad daylight, and the other half looked like dusk.” Students have taken note too: “We recently held practice in another gym and the kids kept telling me to turn on the lights, which were already on,” Duncan shares. “They’ve grown so used to the new brightness in the Spartan Bowl, other gyms seem dark in comparison.”

And yet, energy consumption has dropped to half that of previous fixtures — down to 230 watts from 458 watts — with more than double the brightness. “We think the energy savings over the next two or three years will pay for these fixtures,” says Duncan.

Green agrees: “We saved a lot of money on the front end of the project and look forward to continued savings in the future. I mean, the shelf life of those lights alone is a maintenance money-saver, and they use a fraction of the energy, so it’s the best of both worlds.”

Last but not least, the gym’s colors, once murky, now “pop” under the new lighting. “They’re truly our school colors now,” boasts Duncan. The new lighting’s impact on the building is such that onlookers often think the gym looks freshly repainted.

In all, the Spartan Bowl project delivered improved light levels and color quality at half the energy use and zero maintenance for years to come — a financial slam dunk. But for Spartan fans, the new lights beaming down on their hometown teams play an even bigger role: “It’s a small community down here,” says Green. “The basketball team and the Spartan Bowl are the Holy Grail. The whole community is happy with our lighting project and how it was executed.”

Any way you look at it, the Spartans’ future looks mighty bright.


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