Baseball Under the Lights: How it All Got Started


Early Cincinatti Reds Night Game

Early Cincinnati Reds Night Game

Major League Baseball will play its All-Star Game on July 15th. Baseball may be as American as apple pie, but many people may not realize that it wasn’t always played at night. In fact, before lighting, the stands for most MLB games during weekdays were empty since most baseball fans were at work.  Lighting changed all that and turned the MLB into the behemoth sport it is today. Today, even kids play baseball under lights. Now, Major League Baseball is going through another revolution – LED lighting.

But first, let us take a look at how revolutionary lighting was to baseball.  GE lighting engineer Robert J. Swackhamer successfully deployed an array of high-wattage lamps to light the railroad yards at night for a railroad. The lighting worked so well that Swackhamer convinced his bosses to test the arrays at General Electric Athletic Field in Lynn, Massachusetts.

On June 24, 1927, General Electric lit up the first night baseball game in history between Lynn and Salem using 72 flood lamps on five towers. Salem won 7-2 in front of a crowd that included players from the Boston Red Sox and the Washington Americans.

The GE executives were onto something. The progress was slow at first. It took GE three years to sign up a few minor league teams as customers. By 1935, GE finally hit the Major Leagues with the Cincinnati Reds. The first Major League night game took place at the Red’s Crosley Field on Friday, May 24, 1935. The Reds beat the Philadelphia Phillies 2-1 in front of a crowd of 20,000 people. Legendary Cincinnati announcer Red Barber said, “As soon as I saw the lights come on, I knew they were there to stay.” By 1941, 11 of the 16 Major League baseball fields installed GE lighting, including the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers.

Today, yesterday’s high-intensity-discharge (HID) metal halide lamp floodlights are beginning to be replaced with LED lighting. There are a lot of factors that make LED lighting attractive in to MLB and even NFL stadium management. It may be difficult to light the entire playing surface with traditional HID lighting. Lighting must be able to shine on second base or the 50 yard line requiring brighter and longer distance. LEDs shine brighter and can light longer distances making them more efficient. They are also more precise, so they can light up the playing surface and not blind spectators. LED lighting also lasts longer – 50,000 hours – reducing maintenance costs. They also light to full strength instantly.

Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans was marred by a 34 minute delay at the Superdome. According to Entergy New Orleans, power to the lights was lost when sensing equipment detected abnormalities. Once the outage cause was discovered and power was restored, the HID floodlights required time to come back to full brightness, about 10 to 15 minutes. By contrast, LED lighting is instant on.

Major League Baseball stadiums have already made progress in switching to LED signage with most stadiums sporting LED scoreboards and/or ribbon lighting. The most notable LED scoreboards in baseball are the Detroit Tigers’ 6,096 square feet LED video panel at Comerica Field and the Seattle Mariners’ scoreboard that measures 56.7-feet high by 201.5-feet wide and covers 11,425 square feet. They’re beginning to make progress in switching to LED lighting for their facilities. Busch Stadium, where the St. Louis Cardinals play, began energy efficiency improvements soon after it opened in 2006. Facility management has replaced more than 1,000 traditional spotlights and floodlights with LED lamps to cut lighting power demand in several areas by 90%.

For Further Reading

GE Reports, If You Build it They Will Come: How a GE Engineer Invented Night Baseball,

Athletic Business, LED Tech Poised to Revolutionize Outdoor Sports Lighting,, Superdome power outage delays Super Bowl XLVII,

Greentech Media, Guest Analysis: Super Bowl Power Outage Shines a Bad Light on HID Lighting,

FIFA World Cup: LEDs Celebrate Soccer

Iconic Christ the Redeemer statue lit up in LEDs to celebrate the FIFA World Cup in Brazil

Iconic Christ the Redeemer statue lit up in LEDs to celebrate the FIFA World Cup in Brazil

While the glitz and glamour of FIFA World Cup soccer remains on the field, others in Brazil are turning to LEDs to celebrate the tournament with light.  Even Brazil’s iconic Christ the Redeemer Statue is taking a role in the FIFA World Cup. The monument will be lit up with the colors of each country’s flag. This is possible due to a recent LED lighting retrofit of the popular tourist destination Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Completed in 1931, the famous statue had an LED light retrofit for its 80th birthday in 2011. Lighting company Osram replaced the outdated lighting system with 300 advanced LED projectors (from subsidiary Traxon Technologies).  These high-output spotlights are fitted with a special lens to precisely light the statue in alternating colors and different light intensities.

A special “Lighting Control Engine” aims each LED projector to light a particular part of the statue. The lighting can be programmed and controlled remotely providing energy efficient atmospheric lighting for the monument. The new lighting system saves time and resources for the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro.

For Further Reading & Viewing

The Guardian, Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer lit up in celebration of the World Cup – video,

NLB, Christ the Redeemer Monument in Rio de Janeiro Bathed in a New Light,

NDTV Sports, FIFA World Cup 2014 Opening Ceremony, Highlights: J-Lo, Pitbull Kick Off Biggest Mega-Event in Sao Paulo,

ECD Solutions, Brazil’s football stadiums install LED lights ahead of summer tournament,





Sochi Olympic Venues Light Up with LEDs

The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia begin in just a few weeks on February 7th with the Opening Ceremonies.  The buzz about the Olympics is only just beginning.  This week Clearlysapphire focuses on the lighting for the games. Unlike many Olympic cities, Russia’s Sochi had to start from scratch and build their entire Olympic infrastructure from scratch. This did allow organizers to focus on building green, including installing green lighting using standards developed by the Russian Federation.  In total 200 buildings were built according to these standards, the first applied to construction in Russia, for the Games.

Organizers selected LEDs for lighting several key venues including Fisht Olympic Stadium, Bolshoy Ice Dome, Shayba Arena, and the Iceberg Skating Palace.  We’ll focus on two of them here.

The Bolshoy Ice Dome, to be used for hockey, features an innovative aluminum roof studded with 38,000 LEDs. Inspired by an ice drop, the roof will light up at night in vibrant colors like this photo. The facility will seat 12,000 people and will be used for concerts and sporting events after the Olympics. Fact:  Bolshoy means “major” in Russian.

Bolshoy Ice Dom, Sochi, Russia, lit up with LEDs, is home to ice hockey.

Bolshoy Ice Dom, Sochi, Russia, lit up with LEDs, is home to ice hockey.

The second building we’ll focus on is the Shayba Arena, also one of the ice hockey venues for the Olympics.  It features the latest in LED scoreboard technology installed by ColosseoEAS, a Slovakian company and a European leader in sports arena technology.  Shayba’s aluminum exterior features 45,000 programmable LEDs.  After the Olympics, the 7,000 seat Shayba will be dismantled and transported to another city in Russia for use as an ice sports facility.  Fact:  Shayba means “puck” in Russian.

Shayba Area is also home to Olympic ice hockey.

Shayba Area is also home to Olympic ice hockey.

For Further Reading

Official Web Site for Sochi 2014,

Sports Illustrated, All-new Sochi Olympics venues a spectacle of lights, ice,

Sports Illustrated, First look: Sochi Olympic hockey will live in lights and ice domes,