Ben, an earnest young project manager brings his new idea to the board meeting – replace our ridiculously outdated metal halides for new, singing-and-dancing LED’s.  ‘Everyone is doing it, the whole world is changing to digital LED – it must be the right thing to do!’ Thoroughly researched, he is confident of 100% buy-in from all.  The features are great, the benefits are blatantly obvious. Then, the boss asks the dreaded question ‘That’s all very well but what’s the return on investment (ROI)?’  Ben fumbles around restating the features and benefits for the fourth time.  Opinions are divided and another amazing project get scuttled before leaving the harbour.

The “ROI” question is perfectly fair to ask and not always easy to answer.  So what we’ve attempted to do is give a clear matrix of influencing factors in relation to replacing metal halides with LED lamps.  We have focused on replacing metal halide fittings on a one-for-one basis, although the calculation is still valid for new build, assuming you select an LED fitting that will allow you to use the same pole construction as you would with a metal halide fitting i.e. luminaires are the same size and weight.

The main and obvious influences on ROI are power consumption and maintenance costs.  However, a number of external factors also will impact a decision like this which are more emotional things which everyone will put a different value on.  These are all benefits we take for granted in our homes and businesses but at this early-ish stage of LED development can be easy to overlook in a sporting application when club funds are stretched.  These include carbon footprint responsibility, spill light control to have happier neighbours, the convenience of digital app based control and ‘instant on’.  Basically the convenience and usability we expect in the 21st century which is often hard to put a price on directly.

Carbon footprint responsibility

There may well be differing views on global warming and how this is impacting our planet and what sort of crises we are generating for future generations.  Whichever end of the scale we are at in this argument, saving electricity has to be a good thing.  In most countries electricity production is stretched and costs are only going to go one way.  Additionally many municipalities offer incentives to use more efficient devices, further enhancing the benefits.

Happier Neighbours

Spill light not only costs money in wasted energy but also makes for aggravated neighbours.  Having a pay-to-play system is good news for the club who can maximise their investment, but perhaps not such good news for those nearby who don’t like sleeping in simulated daylight.  Many LED systems offer excellent light control due to each LED having an optic.  This allows for very specific focus of the light to go just where it should, dramatically reducing the stray light.

App based control

Imagine your facilities manager being able to turn the lights off from his bed at 2am when the last rowdy players have forgotten to do so. Better still, set the app so that the lights turn off after a specified time, or when the key-holder leaves, or when the players’ credit has run out etc. etc.  In other words, digital lighting gives us exceptional control of how we manage our lighting to minimise running costs and maximise the clubs ROI.  By making pay-to-play so simple and controllable, clubs can rethink how they make the facility available 24/7, boosting attendances and fees without impacting on their pay-roll.  Additionally, being able to control the intensity of the lights allows you to have different levels of lighting for different sports or levels of play.  This again gives more control of your costs as you can dim the lights to pre-set levels if full power is not required.

Instant On

Have you ever been frustrated with how long your lights take to warm up?  Or worse still had a match in progress and the electricity has tripped, causing a 20 minute delay while the lights warm up to full power again?  A benefit of LED that is hard to put a value on is the way they power up in seconds.  Even with a soft start they are operating at full power in under 5 seconds.

Digital Convenience

Like with many things in our modern world there is a convenience about digital which is hard to put a price on.  Ever considered what life would be like without a smartphone? We now can’t even imagine how terrible this would be but smartphones have only been in existence since 2007. Once we have made the commitment to going digital the benefits compound and it becomes very difficult to image how we managed ‘in the old days’.


So, bearing in mind the somewhat ‘intangible’ benefits mentioned above, put your numbers into the ROI Calculator below and you’ll quickly be able to see how long the investment will take to pay off.

We often get asked the question ‘Can I replace metal halide bulbs with LED bulbs in the same fitting?’ Whilst this would be nice and convenient it is unfortunately not possible at present.  That is not to say it will never be possible.  As most of us over-30-year-olds can testify, things that were totally impossible are suddenly and surprisingly ubiquitous the next minute.  For those under 30 nothing is any longer regarded as impossible, so watch this space!

Although all lamps generate heat in some form or another, the way metal halide and other traditional forms of lighting work is very different to LED.  Metal halide lamps push their heat forward.  This means that they need a glass or high-temperature plastic cover to cope with the heat.  However, the body or frame holding the bulb itself can be light and thin, often mild steel or plastic as there is no heat coming out the back of the lamp.  By contrast LED’s generate a lot of heat but it flows out the back, with very little coming forward.  In this way a plastic lens can be used for the front, but requires an aluminium heatsink as the back part of the housing to help remove the heat build-up.  This simple contrast means that (for the moment) the way the 2 types of lamps operate is fundamentally too different to be able to make the change simply by replacing bulbs.

Whilst we are aware there are products on the market which claim to do this swap out, be very careful.  At this point a realistic wattage replacement is 1.2kW of LED for a 2kW of metal halide power.  As of mid-2018 this would be regarded as a highly efficient sports light.  This means that the heat generated is equivalent to 240 x 5W domestic lamps, but crammed into a light that is about 600 x 600mm.  If you were to further reduce this size to that of a 2kW bulb, it is technically, and practically, impossible to remove the heat.  As a build-up of heat would destroy the LED’s, this leaves the only other conclusion that it cannot therefore produce the right amount of energy. This is of course simple to prove.  Get lux readings of your existing lighting layout and then ask the supplier of the alternative bulbs to do the same.  If they don’t have the facility to produce lighting layouts it is very unlikely that the product will work.  If they can prove that it works then you know that science has again progressed and we need to do some catching up.

The response is often ‘Well it works at home!’  This is perfectly true and is only possible due to the low current draw of these lamps and, consequently, the low amounts of heat that will be generated.  The more that is expected out of a lamp in terms of light output, the more heat will be generated.  Domestic lamps are often only 3 or 5W but produce a good glow in their setting.  Compared to a high intensity lamp like a sports fitting, these domestic units are very large by comparison, giving a lot of surface area which also helps dissipate heat.  If a sports light was created that used domestic 5W bulbs it would likely measure more than about 2sqm.  Space in the ceiling of house is not really at a premium, hence light fittings don’t have to be very streamlined.  However, having a large and heavy light 25m in the air increases the cost and engineering challenges for the pole manufacturers.  Additionally, if clubs are wanting to replace metal halide fittings with LED, the modules have to be similar to the metal halides in dimensions and weight for the same reason.

The only viable solution currently is to have a module that is matched in size and weight as mentioned, but then also has optimised light output to compare with the metal halide.

So, proceed with caution if the option looks too simple and cheap.  As with most things in life, if it looks too good to be true, it may be just that!

A question we regularly get asked is ‘Do I need to replace all the lights at once or can I do it over time?’  The answer is definitely that if can be done in phased approach over time, but needs a touch more planning to make it successful.  Get it right and you’ll be everyone’s hero, get it wrong and no-one will remember to thank you for the money you’re saving them in the long run.

Legacy high powered LED lights have been designed to replace traditional metal halide fittings on a one-for-one basis.  This means that the weight and size have been optimised so that existing poles can be used, but also means that the beam pattern is very similar to what a standard narrow beam flood light would produce.  One of the key advantages therefore is that lights can be replaced as they fail, or as budgets permit, without causing big issues in the meanwhile.

Case Study

A city based recreational football ground had reasonable club attendance but only a small amount available annually for maintenance and repairs.  With replacements globes costing around $250-$300 each, the biggest expense was in the hiring of high lift equipment and the technicians time to do it.   The field had 4 poles with eight lamps on each.

The planning phase was the most important to ensure that all interested parties were getting what they needed:

The Players

Whatever decision was made it had to work all the time for the players.  Having a hotch-potch make-shift system was not going to cut it for players who were paying membership fees.  Being a city location ensured there were other clubs within easy reach if the facilities didn’t come up to scratch.

The Neighbours

The current metal halides, whilst old, were professionally designed and installed and the neighbours enjoyed glare-free lighting, being mounted horizontally.

The Treasurer

Whatever the solution the club had to pay for the installation and be able to live with the results.  Proving a reasonable return on investment (ROI) was important to get everyone on board with the increased capital requirement that new LED’s would require.  The fact that all expenses could be recouped within 10 years was enough to convince the money guys that it was a worthwhile investment.

The Facilities Team & Volunteers

With much of the work being done at the club by volunteers, using maintenance free lighting would free up the volunteers to do other tasks, or give them the day off!

With some targeted fund raising activity is was found that they could afford to replace the lamps on one pole each year, thereby taking 4 years to complete the project.

The facilities team used lighting simulations from 3 manufacturers to decide which lamp would be the best in the ‘phased approach’ by seeing which would give the best, most-even light distribution when used in conjunction with the old metal halides.  It was decided to replace one pole at a time and if lamps on other poles failed in the meanwhile, the working units from the swapped out modules were used until that poles turn came around.  In this way the expense was budgeted and easy to predict. Using a Return on Investment calculator it was estimated the pay-back period to be 10 years which gave the club confidence that they were making the right long-term decision.  This was over against the instinctive thought to rather just constantly carry on paying out a smaller amount annually for maintenance.

A 5 year, 50 000 hour warranty went a long way to convincing the board that the lamps would be for benefit of the club well into the future.  Delaying the decision to move to digital lighting only postpones the end date of having an efficient and effective lighting system, like which is not possible apart from LED.

So if you’re looking to do a phased approach ensure some key points:

1)      Will the light pattern of the new lamp blend with the old in terms of light distribution and colour temperature

2)      Can I replace my existing units one-for-one in terms of size and weight so that the current poles can be used?

3)      Have points 1 and 2 been backed up by an accurate simulated lighting plan and been compared to existing light levels?

Once you’ve gone through this whole exercise you will be far more likely of a successful change-over and more able to maximise the benefits into the future.

Good weather and an outdoor lifestyle has ensure that sport is a way of life in Australia.  

With a large number of facilities around the country it is usually not a far drive to the nearest club, whatever your sport of choice is.  Tennis, athletics, soccer, footy, cricket or equestrian – you name it and there is likely to be a club nearby.

However even with all the amenities available it is sometimes difficult to track down companies who service and maintain these facilities.  Whilst there are many companies willing to do the work you need to ensure they have the experience and expertise to keep your facility in peak performance.  Track surfaces, lighting, lighting poles and servicing and installation are some of the main areas that are not always easy to find the right company.

We have compiled a list of companies who we believe are at the top of their game.

Lighting Pole Manufacturers

Lighting poles are a critical part of the lighting design and need to be investigated thoroughly as making a mistake in the source of poles can be very expensive to rectify later.  Knowing what lights are to be used makes a big difference to what the poles may cost as every lighting manufacturer has different efficiencies and therefore different weight to output ratios.  A lighting plan should therefore be done first and then the poles should be designed. Most pole manufacturers’ offer a complete kit for DIY installation for smaller poles or would supervise installation for bigger projects.

Blue Sun Poles   
Contact Tony on 1300 412 438

Contact Stephan on 07 3041 1112

Galvanised Poles Australia
Contact Eric on 1300 790 343

Auspole Products
Contact Phil on 08 9417 1207

Electrical Installation & Maintenance

There are a number of players in this market, some being national and some regional.  It is important that you are comfortable with your selection as they are playing a vital role in your club.  Many clubs would have a resident electrician who would be able to offer their services. However if you don’t know that right person or need a higher level of expertise there are a number of specialist out there who are focused particularly on high power sport applications, most of which offer a national service with offices and technicians around the country.

These companies can provide a turn-key solution from lighting layout and lux plans, supply and installation of poles, connection and fitting:

CME Sports Lighting

Flood Lighting Australia

IWE Group

Lighting Supply

Be careful on this one.  There are a number of ‘generic’ lighting suppliers but very few specialists.  When looking at lighting there are a few things to bear in mind and, as a rule of thumb, price should be near the bottom of the list.  Key factors include:

  • What beam pattern do the lights produce i.e. round or asymmetric?
  • How many lights will be needed to get the desired lux levels?
  • Do they mount horizontally so as not to create glare for players and neighbours?
  • Can they be accommodated by existing poles or do we need new ones?
  • Do we have enough electrical supply?
  • What is the cost?
  • What CRI options are available?

Two well-known options are Phillips and Gerard Lighting, although there are a number of others who would be competitive and offer a good product.  They typically work through a network of designers and wholesalers whereas some of the alternatives offer a shorter chain, thereby getting closer to the source.

Sport Surfaces

Different companies specialise in different surfaces so once you know what you need you can identify your best partner.  Alternatively all the companies listed below have vast experience and will be able to recommend what would be best for your situation.

1800 663812

Regupol Australia
02 4624 0050

Premier Sports & Leisure
1300 552 882

William Loud
03 9792 0622

ABS Sportsfields
1300 66 36 35

Doing a major upgrade on your club or facility is a big investment and mistakes will have to be endured for many years.  Spend extra time doing the research up-front and we can guarantee that you will save a lot of time and money into the future.

Please note these companies have no affiliation with Legacy Lighting and we have provided their details for convenience when sourcing these types of products and services.


Getting enough light on the ground without bothering the neighbours is a great start to a good game of evening football.  When evaluating what will, or won’t, work there is a number of parameters that will affect the results.  Lumens and Lux are 2 of the most common to be looked into so let’s explain a bit more about both terms and then the answer becomes more clear.

Lumens is a measurement of the volume of light being emitted by the lamp.  This is controlled by how the manufacturer of the LED chip (Cree, Lumiled etc.) has designed it and the value will vary depending on how much current is put through it.  For instance, a 5W chip operating at 5W may produce 90 lumens/watt.  That is, for every watt of power put in, it will generate 90 lumens out.  However, if you run the same LED at 3W you will get a big increase in the efficiency and generate perhaps 120 lumens/watt.  The lamp manufacturer therefore specifies a gross lumens value in two ways – raw lumens and effective lumens.  The raw lumens is what the LED manufacturer has put as the value at a given temperature and wattage.  This does not take into account the lamp as a system and doesn’t reflect any calculation for losses from optics, temperature etc.  The effective lumens is what is calculated once the lamp has been built into a system.  This is tested over a period of hours and so allows the lamp time to heat up and is testing the actual light output rather than the theoretical light produced in a laboratory by the LED itself.  If the lighting manufacturer doesn’t specify if the values stated are raw or effective, you can safely assume they are raw.  Losses from raw to effective may be as much as 30% and is specific to the system i.e. cannot be estimated without knowing more details about the lamp as a whole.

Lux, on the other hand is a practical, field measurement of real light on the ground or at a specified height.  This test can be done physically or simulated using software and the IES (digital light pattern) file. Once the lamps have been set up on their poles (or simulated) and the field is illuminated, then you can measure the actual light on the ground.  This takes into account the same losses as the effective lumens test but also shows how the light is controlled.  This is very important for big-field sports like football, cricket, baseball and rugby.  Having a huge mass of bright light that only shines 50m isn’t very helpful on a rugby field.  Additionally, the mass of light tends to have a lot of stray light which can tend to annoy spectators and neighbours.

So, whilst you have to have the right lumen values being emitted from the lamp, the way it is controlled is of utmost importance.  Just because a light has high power and lots of lumens doesn’t mean the light will go where you want it to go.  A proper lighting plan is therefore essential.  If you are not sure what lighting levels you need there are a number of sources of this info – a handy quick reference being is the Legacy guide but there are numerous more detailed sources available.  Once you know what the standard is, check out your lighting levels with a lux meter.  Again there are some helpful app downloads to give you an idea of where your illumination is up to.  If this is sufficient, use it as the base for your design.  If it isn’t sufficient, work with the lighting guidelines and the designer to come up with a system that works.

It’s a good idea to get a couple of lighting companies so you can compare the lighting plans from different manufacturers.  Once done you should be well on the way to making a better, more informed decision, achieving efficiency and low maintenance for many years to come.


If you have looked into LED lighting at all you will have noticed there is dozens, if not hundreds, of options.  So, as you can imagine, there a dozens, if not hundreds, of variations to the answer of this question. They range from 100W to 1500W, big fins, small fins, fan assisted, metal pressed, die cast, white powder coat, black powder coat, COB’s, small chip LED’s, high efficiency LED’s and so on and so on.  Your head begins to spin at the options, but one thing you can be sure of is that LED is the most efficient – right?  Wrong.  Or more correctly – potentially wrong.

Let’s just confirm that point quickly as it is really important – just because it is LED does not mean that it is energy efficient.  Or, conversely, just because it is old technology metal halide does not make it inefficient.  A number of factors need to be assessed to decide if LED is going to work for you.  How often are the lights used, and for how long etc. etc.

So let’s look at some of these factors in a bit more detail…

How often are the lights used and for how long?

A while back we had a client insisting on looking at LED.  They ran a rodeo once a year for one night and he felt LED was going to give him the best return on investment because if ‘was the best’ and ‘the latest technology’.  Needless to say we were dubious.  The LED fittings he wanted cost 4 times that of metal halide and the amount of electricity used in the year would have only been 10’s of dollars because of only being used once a year.  In this case there was no way of justifying the purchase.  On the other hand, making a 40% energy saving on 100’s of hours of use per year can make it very viable.

How many lights will I need to use?

The only way to conclusively check if there is a gross energy saving is to get a lighting plan done.  If you are using the existing poles then you can figure out what lighting levels you already have and get a comparative study done using LED.  You can immediately see if you will require more or less fittings and energy by the layout results.  Don’t take this as a given that LED will reduce your energy consumption.  Most systems are less efficient than their traditional alternatives.

Optics and field size

The larger the field, the more difficult it is for LED to improve on power consumption.  This is because many of the LED optics are not optimised for big field sports and are therefore very inefficient at distributing the light, particularly at a distance.  The critical factor is the control of the light with optics or reflectors as this determines ultimately how many LED watts will be required.  Again, a lighting plan using the IES file for the specified light is the only way to know if it will work or not.  Don’t baulk at this step.  It may cost a few hundred dollars at worst, and at best could save you hundreds of thousands in wasted investment.

To conclude then, efficiency is relative to the size of the investment vs the usage of the lights.  Assuming you get a really good optic and can replace your metal halide fittings and get a 40% saving in electricity, make sure you get a sensible return on investment by looking at the whole lifetime cost, rather than just focusing on the isolated factor of energy consumption.

A key difference between traditional metal halide fittings and LED fittings is the maintenance costs.  The basic housing for the metal halide fittings can last for 10’s of years but the bulbs need to be replaced regularly as they lose 20-25% of their efficiency within the first 250 hours of operation.  By contrast LED fittings should last 50000 hours as a system without the need for maintenance other than occasional cleaning.

Whilst this is all perfectly true, the flip side is that if the metal halide fails, you only have to replace the bulb.  By contrast, if the LED fails, you have to replace the whole unit.

A number of factors influence how long the LED’s last.  Key elements are the driver, the LED’s, waterproofing, condensation control and the control of heat.

The Driver or Power supply

This is a critical component and is one of the most common causes of failure in LED’s.  The power supply in a mains AC powered system is essentially the brains of the lamp.  The PC Board in an AC system is a ‘dumb’ board loaded with LED’s.  All control, dimming etc are controlled by the power supply, except for the temperature control on the board.  There are a number of specialist manufacturers who offer very good warranties and have proved themselves in the field. Ensure your supplier is not economising on this component as it is likely to be where issues will come from and can be expensive to replace.

The LED’s

There is a large number of proven manufacturers of LED’s.  While a brand is no guarantee of high performance and longevity, there is credibility with some of these companies who have consistently produced excellent products for many years.  Amongst these are Cree, LG and Lumiled although lighting manufacturers constantly need to experiment with other products to ensure they keep in the forefront of the industry.  However, it is worth checking the credibility of the brand of LED’s to give you some idea of what your warranty is worth.


As sports lights are generally installed outside a level of waterproofing is essential.  This would usually involve a seal around the lens and a waterproof cable gland. Once moisture gets into the lights it quickly damages the PC Board and will result in failures within days.


When a lamp has been working hard and getting hot, a sudden change in temperature (like from rain) can cause the air in the lamp to condense.  This results in fogging in the lamp which will very quickly can deterioration in the electronics, and ultimately, failure.  Most lights are now designed with a breather valve.  This means that if there is a build-up of condensation in the lamp the moisture can go out, but not back in.  This method is virtually fool-proof and is essential for all lamps that are not made in a moisture free environment – which is the majority of lamps in the world.

Control of heat

One of the principle causes of LED failure is overheating.  The 2 main ways to control this is by having sufficient heat sinking and by moderating the temperature of the PC Board electronically.  As the housing is static and airflow is unpredictable, the surface area and fin size influences how well it will control the heat.  The other aspect is to control how hard the LED’s run.  The more current they draw the hotter they will be.  Control mechanisms are therefore put into place to throttle the current draw which in turn allows the LED’s time to cool down.  This method is only successful when used in conjunction with an effective heat sink and is not an alternative to a good heatsink.

So, lots to look into but once you’ve explored all the options and you’re confident of your decision, you will have a system that will last for many years to come.

On the field, lighting levels are measured with a light, or lux, meter.  The results are expressed in Lux (lumens/m2) or foot candles (lumens/ft2).  This gives an objective measurement of the amount of light at a specific point.  However, prior to achieving this, the layout is planned using a digital file called an IES file.

Each lamp has different current draw, efficiency, CRI, colour temperature and most importantly, beam pattern. The IES file contains the beam pattern of the luminaire to be used, in a format that allows the designer to plan the position of the poles, height of the poles and angles of the luminaires in order to achieve uniform lighting at a particular lux level.  The engineer can very accurately achieve an end result once he knows what standard or ideal he is working towards.

These standards are set out by governing bodies, sports associations, local governments and other interested parties.   Almost every country, and sometimes even states, have got their own regulations and recommendations in regard to lighting levels for sports but many of these are guided by associations and federations.  Every sport has been individually assessed by professionals and there are minor tweaks and changes to differentiate one from another.  The influencing factors include the size of the ball, the speed of play, the size of the field and distance from the spectators. If play is being videoed or televised also has a large impact on the level of lighting, as well as the definition required.

Another point to mention is CRI or Colour Rendering Index.  Many standards that were written pre-2010 or thereabouts don’t take LED into account as it wasn’t then available for sport applications.  If this was the case it is likely that no mention will be made of CRI.  This is because metal halide fittings, which have been used in sport for decades, naturally have a high CRI.  For those who don’t know we have inserted a comment on Colour Rendering Index giving the Wikipedia explanation as of May 2018:

‘A colour rendering index (CRI) is a quantitative measure of the ability of a light source to reveal the colours of various objects faithfully in comparison with an ideal or natural light source. Light sources with a high CRI are desirable in colour-critical applications such as neonatal care and art restoration.’

Put a bit more simply: ‘How much detail can we see’. If you are studying something fast moving or in great detail, it is important to have a very high CRI.

Anyway, back to the standards!  Mostly this information is available to download for free and we have listed some of the regulatory bodies below, but this is by no means exhaustive.

In this article we have tried to summarise required lux levels for some of the most common sports, based on the three most common types of usage, excluding televised professional games:

  1. a)Class 1 – High level competition involving national and international matches.  Stadiums are large and therefore spectators are some distance away from the action.
  2. b)Class 2 – Mid-level covering regional clubs.  Viewing is likely to be somewhat closer than for Class 1 and crowds are smaller.  This could also be a suitable level for training for Class 1.
  3. c)Class 3 – Local competitions and recreational use with no grand-stand and spectators very close to the field.  This could also be a level suitable for training for Class 2.

The summary below is gleaned primarily from our interpretation of the standards (averaging where there are differences), the majority of which are set out in EN12193.  Please note FIFA and others refer to the Classes in the reverse order and so Class 1 is for training, and so on.


  Lux Levels Required
Sport Type Class 1 Class 2 Class 3
Football (Soccer) 500 200 75
Rugby 500 200 75
Tennis – outdoor 500 300 200
Tennis – indoor 750 500 300
Baseball 750 500 200
Hockey 500 250 200
Athletics 500 200 100
Golf 100
Playing court 500 200 75
Swimming pool 500 300 200
Multi-purpose sports hall 750 500 200
Ice Hockey Rink 750 500 300
Badminton/Squash 750 500 300
Alpine skiing 100 30 20
Horse racing 200 100 50


Regulatory bodies

The regulatory bodies listed below have detailed recommendations and suggestions, covering a host of topics apart from lighting levels.  For a deeper dive into what is required, you may find some of them useful.

Fifa standard for lighting

Guidelines for lighting for AFL, Soccer and Netball in Australia

UEFA lighting guidelines

US Soccer Foundation

All USA sports – NCAA

Football Association of Ireland

Rugby Australia

Standards Australia

International Tennis Federation

Federation of International Hockey

Illuminating Engineering Society – Paid for version

CIBSE Lighting Regulations – Paid for version

So, that’s a very broad overview.  To see where you are compared to the standard there are a few apps for lux measurement which can help such as Light Lux Meter Pro for iOS or Lux Meter (Light Meter) for android.  Download one of these and you can easily check if you are getting the type of output you thought you were from your fittings.






 It will also give you an idea of how energy efficient your current system is and if you could improve this by replacing the bulbs or converting to LED.  There are a number of suppliers that will do a free assessment once you have provided this basic information, along with a field/pole layout.

High powered LED sports lights come in a myriad of shapes and sizes, beam patterns and CRI’s.  With the benefits of being digital there is amazing things that can be done with them to create effects, dim, flash etc. and are all features that can enhance the user experience and make your sports field much more multi-functional.  This increases the options for revenue streams and makes better use of the facility.

So, how much do these digital luminaires cost?

Well, as you’ve probably guessed, that depends on how far you want to go.  As the sky is literally the limit for what you can spend with all special effects, we have tried to just deal with conventional lighting for sport applications. Each sport has very different and specific requirements with relation to CRI, lux levels and pole heights and so we have not attempted to make this an exhaustive guide.

Many companies will do lighting layouts and IES files free of charge, or for small charge, so you to prove more accurately what the costs will be, but this should put you in the right ball-park so there’s no dramatic surprises.

There will be two main scenario’s:  Brand new build and replacement of metal halide fittings.

Brand New Build

This is the most difficult to guesstimate as you have nothing to work on to begin with.  However, let’s make a start.  Broadly speaking there are generally three levels of play – Class 1, 2 and 3.  This guide does not attempt to estimate a facility that will be have televised matches as the lighting required for this is significantly higher and is much more complex.  Also for a new installation bear in the mind the cost of the light fittings themselves is likely to be only about 20% of the cost of the poles, provision of power, control gear and installation.

Due to there being many different regulations in different countries we have broadly grouped them into 3 groups which reflect the lighting level required.

Group 1 – Involves large capacity crowds who are situated quite far from the action


  • Lighting level of 500 lux
  • Pole height of 20-25m
  • Pricing range allows for CRI of 70-90
  • Estimated luminaire cost US$15-US$20/m2

Group 2 – This could be regional club matches with medium sized crowds and also include high-level training


  • Lighting level of 200 lux
  • Pole height of 20-25m
  • Pricing range allows for CRI of 70-90
  • Estimated luminaire cost US7-US10/m2

Group 3 – Local matches or recreation grounds with very few spectators and also training

  • Lighting level of 75-100 lux
  • Pole height of 20-25m
  • Pricing range assumes CRI of 70
  • Estimated luminaire cost US4-6/m2

Replacement of metal halide fittings:

This scenario is simpler to estimate assuming you are happy with the lighting levels you currently have.  If you are unsure what they are or want to check they are near what you assumed, there are a few apps such as Lux Meter (Light Meter) for android or Lux Light Meter Pro for iOS which give a good indication.






Assuming that you find the existing levels are what you need, then the calculation is simply a one-for-one replacement in most situations.  As an approximation the replacement of a 1kW metal halide fitting would be US$1500 and the replacement of a 2kW metal halide fitting would be US$2500, for a 70 CRI and about 10-15% more for a 90 CRI module.

If you are not happy with your existing lighting levels use the guide above for ‘New Build’ which gives a lux level and is based on square meter averages.

As you will appreciate there are a huge amount of variables in a calculation of this nature and we would always recommend getting a lighting plan done by a professional company.  However, this will hopefully put you in ball-park and give you something to work on.

Need a more accurate quote?  Try using our Sports Lighting Cost Calculator or contact Legacy Lighting for a personalised quote.

Sport lighting is a specialised and complex science.  The lighting level, evenness, glare, CRI, heights and spill-light control are all aspects the designer has to take into account and all these parameters vary depending on the application.  For a game where the ball is small and fast moving, like tennis, high lighting levels are required with a very good CRI.  If the game is being videoed or televised the lighting levels and pitch uniformity have to be of a very high standard.

Over the years we have taken a lot of this for granted with metal halide systems.  Although an old technology, metal halide naturally produces a very high CRI, flicker-free light with a very good colour temperature. The development of the reflectors over the years has resulted in a very efficient system that was relatively simple for designers to specify.  With only two main beam patterns, almost any big-field sport was catered for and increasing the number of lights brought up the lux readings to the desired level.

The introduction of LED a decade ago was thought to signal the death of 2kW metal halide fittings as they are ‘old and outdated’.  However, while all other forms of lighting were changing rapidly, sport lighting remained surprisingly static. Early adopters burned their fingers with very heavy lights that gave bad light and failed regularly. As a result designers have shied away from these digital fittings that could potentially give them a bad name.  From our attempts, even as recently as 2015, it needed nearly 3000W of LED power to get a similar beam to a 2000W metal halide. Considering the extra weight and necessary pole thickness upgrade and the 100% increase in unit cost LED, was not looking very favourable.

However, LED manufacturers like Cree and LG have continued to improve light output and efficiencies. Optic designers have carried on working away and now there are some systems that can truly replace metal halide one for one.

However, when looking at doing a swap out there are a number of points to consider.

Weight and sail area (surface area)

The poles you currently use have been designed for a specific weight and sail area.  Increasing either, or both of these could have quite dramatic effects in high wind.  Make sure that neither of them exceeds what is currently used or obtain the original poles drawings to make sure the increase can be accommodated in the existing design.  This should be carried out by a qualified structural engineer.

Lux levels

Assess accurately what the current lux levels are of your field, decide what you need.  Just because you had it designed to 500 lux 20 years ago by no means guarantees that is what it is at present. Be realistic and don’t over-specify unless power consumption and capital budget are not an issue.

Power consumption

Once the layout design has been completed, ensure that the power consumption is within the tolerances of what you have available for peak demand. This might sound obvious but many systems have been implemented without taking this into account.

  • CRI requirement will depend on what level of sport is being played. For most training and club applications 70 CRI is sufficient.  If the games are to be televised or it is amateur level with a small ball i.e. cricket, then 90 CRI may be needed.  This is not something that can be changed later so needs consideration early on as the price is affected by up to 20%.
  • If you’re not sure about the company making the lights, or can’t find out much about them, the two most important parts of the light are the driver and the LED’s. Ask for make and model and research these thoroughly.  If both these components are from a reliable source, it is likely the lamp will stay the pace.
  • Some manufacturers have now used the metal halide beam patterns to model their LED optic. This makes is simpler for the designer so but essentially the beam pattern, uniformity etc should be dealt with by them (or the manufacturer if they offer this service) and you should be able to rely on them for this.

If you can satisfy all these requirements then, when added to the benefits of digital lighting, you will have made a good decision that will last a long time.