Sunday night lights! Super Bowl to be lit by LEDs

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -- When the Super Bowl kicks off in February at University of Phoenix Stadium, there's one thing the NFL won't have to worry about: an extended blackout.

Ephesus Lighting of Syracuse, New York, has just completed installation of LED lighting at the venue, site of the 2015 Super Bowl. The first game played under the new lights was Sunday, when the Cardinals hosted the San Francisco 49ers.

So far, so good.

"Fantastic!" Peter Sullivan, regional vice president and general manager of the University of Phoenix Stadium, said Monday. "They were fantastic on a variety of levels. These lights are rated for super slow-motion, so the clarity and the level of light and the type of light is phenomenal."

Ephesus chief executive officer Amy Casper says it's the first NFL venue to illuminate a playing surface exclusively with LED lighting. Sullivan said he had already fielded calls from another NFL team and a Major League Baseball franchise.

Only 312 Ephesus stadium fixtures were installed in the University of Phoenix Stadium. They will replace more than 780 metal halide fixtures, which have not yet been removed, and carry a 10-year warranty. According to the company, the new lights will use just 310,000 watts of energy. The system it replaces needs 1.24 million watts, which translates to a 75% reduction in overall energy consumption.

"That's a significant reduction for significantly more light level," Sullivan said. "It was just phenomenal. You've got to make sure the TV guys are happy, and they weren't just happy. They were way happy. It's new at this level, but I think it came out of the box pretty well."

Each Ephesus LED light provides nearly double the illumination of traditional metal halide lights. LED lights also provide brighter and more uniform light, which eliminates shadows on the playing surface and creates a better stage for players, fans, and those watching on high-definition televisions.

If the lights ever go out due to a power surge, like they did for 34 minutes at the 2013 Super Bowl in New Orleans, the delay will be minimal. LED lights can be turned on and off with the flick of a switch. Metal halide fixtures require a 20-minute warm-up period.

"The capabilities of LED technology have changed the way we view sports lighting," said Joe Casper, founder and chief technology officer of Ephesus Lighting. "This was a great opportunity to showcase our innovative lighting technology in a venue known as a leader in introducing new ideas to the sports marketplace."

The new lights also reduce the load on the stadium's air conditioning system because of the reduced heat generated by the LEDs. Not a bad thing in Arizona.

The game-time temperature Sunday hovered around 100 degrees outside. Utilities represent the stadium's largest operating expense, and the biggest piece of that is electricity, Sullivan said.

"Not only do you have a utility-consumption reduction, you also have significant savings as to cooling in the upper echelons of your building," Sullivan said. "Metal halide lights throw off a ton of heat."

The new lights can be preprogrammed to do special effects for player introductions, and they can be dimmed after games when maintenance crews perform cleanup, leading to more savings.

"It's not just lighting per se. It's a whole bunch more. I'd like to think in light of how it performed, a lot of people are going to get serious about LED sports lighting," said Sullivan, who expects the return on investment to come in less than four years. "It's kind of the tip of the iceberg. The positive virtues of this are just, in my opinion, too great to pass up."

The University of Phoenix Stadium, which has a retractable roof, opened in 2006 and also hosted the Super Bowl in 2008, the 2011 BCS national championship game, and has been home to the Fiesta Bowl since 2007.

Other venues that use Ephesus LED lights are: Canadian Tire Centre, home of the NHL's Ottawa Senators; Duke University's Williams Field at Jack Katz Stadium; and The Ryan Center at the University of Rhode Island.

The Syracuse War Memorial, home to the AHL's Syracuse Crunch, was the first sports arena in the country to be lit by LED lights, and Ephesus installed them.

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AP Sports Writer Bob Baum in Phoenix contributed to this report.

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