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One-on-one: Joe Myhra, vice president of ballpark operations, Seattle Mariners
The Safeco Field operations VP discusses the Seattle Mariners’ decision to illuminate the field of play with a new LED lighting system
Earlier this year, Safeco Field, home of Major League Baseball’s Seattle Mariners, became the first Major League stadium to illuminate its playing field with LED lights. Installation of the new lighting system, which replaced the former metal halide fixtures, was completed in January and unveiled to the public at the team’s 17th annual FanFest.
The switch to LED lights at sports venues, especially in the USA, is very much in vogue right now, as the likes of The Palace of Auburn Hills, NRG Stadium, Thompson-Boiling Arena and the University of Phoenix Stadium have all recently adopted this new technology. Each have voiced the virtues of LED lighting, which include significantly reduced glare and shadows on the field, and better color and no flicker on the slow-motion technology for viewers watching games on HDTV. Also, in addition to the improved lighting, LED fixtures have been designed to be more efficient and have a longer lifespan than metal halide lamps.
At Safeco Field, the LED conversion will reduce energy consumption for field lighting by 60-70%. Also, the lamps are said to last more than 10,000 hours (or more than 30 years), compared with the 300 hours for metal halide lamps. And unlike the old lights, which needed a 20-minute warm-up, the LED lights respond instantly when switched on.
Joe Myhra, vice president of ballpark operations at the Seattle Mariners, sat down with Stadia for an exclusive interview about the team’s new lighting system, including the challenges in switching from metal halide, the key benefits, and potential future uses.
Myhra, who previously served as director of maintenance for Safeco Field since 2008, succeeded Scott Jenkins, who left the Mariners to become general manager of the new Atlanta Stadium being built by the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. In his current role, Myhra oversees all Safeco Field maintenance, operations and capital projects, as well as security, game day, grounds-keeping and sustainability operations.
What are the biggest challenges in adapting to LED from your previous lighting system?
Making sure we accounted for every factor during the engineering, design, installation and testing process. We really tried hard to take a comprehensive look and make sure we considered all the impacts to our end users, whether that is how we control the system, what type of mounting bracket would work best, how the new LED light affected each camera position, how a baseball looks under the new system, etc. There were a lot of details we had to concern ourselves with and make decisions on those details in a short amount of time in order for this project to be successful. I feel like we accomplished our goals and I attribute that to the team we assembled, who made it all happen.
What gains have been made as a result of switching to LED lighting?
Having the ability to provide the best playing environment for our team, gaining the opportunity to provide an ideal viewing environment for our fans, and adding the technology to support our broadcast partners and their ability to broadcast Mariners games in high definition is what we have gained through this process. There are definitely auxiliary benefits like energy savings and reductions in maintenance costs, but what drove our decisions was how we use this technology to improve our field conditions for our players and fans.
Is there potential to introduce LED lighting into other areas of the ballpark, beyond the field?
Absolutely, we are looking at a number of different areas in the ballpark that would benefit from upgrading to LED lighting. Most notable would be any high-access lighting, exterior lighting, office areas that are occupied year round, concourses, and those areas of the building that are always on for either emergency reasons, security reasons or general operational requirements. These areas are where we have the best chance to reduce our electrical consumption, reduce outages and reduce maintenance time spent replacing lamps.
What advice would you give to other stadia contemplating switching to LED lighting?
I believe that LED technology is the future of lighting in our industry. I encourage those who are interested to do their homework, ask the right questions, and test the waters, so to speak. There are a lot of benefits to LED lighting and those benefits will never be realized without knowing how to apply the technology in the right setting.
Safeco Field LED light facts:
• 579 metal halide lights were replaced with 578 LED fixtures;
• The metal halide lights ranged from 1,000-2,000W;
• The LED fixtures use only 800W;
• The LED lights are 20-30% brighter while using 60% fewer watts than metal halide lights;
• The more efficient LED lights will reduce power usage by 784,000kWh each season, saving more than US$50,000 in energy costs alone;
• As LED lights last longer, there are also savings in maintenance costs over the life of the fixtures;
• Sun light registers 100 on the Color Rendering Index. Metal halide fixtures register 63, and LED lights are at 81, making for dramatic improvements in visibility for players on the field, fans in the stands, and those watching at home on TV;
• The system installed at Safeco Field is the first in Major League Baseball to offer ultra-slow-motion replay without any flicker.