In recent years, LED light bulbs have become more and more popular as an alternative to traditional incandescent and fluorescent lighting. This trend isn't just exclusive to ordinary Americans, arenas have also begun to notice the advantages of LEDs — they cost less over time, save more energy, and produce less heat than the metal-halide installations most stadiums currently use. This summer, Staples Center became one of the pioneers in implementing this technology. Over the offseason, they replaced their original metal-halide lights with brand new LEDS, just in time for the NHL and NBA seasons.
The Los Angeles Clippers also participated in the decision-making process, along with the Los Angeles Kings and representatives from the NBA and NHL, although the final decision was made by Staples Center itself (the lights are owned by Staples Center and AEG). Clippers Senior Vice President of Marketing and Sales, Carl Lahr, worked closely with the Staples Center during this process, and Team President Doc Rivers had the final signoff. Because of that decision, this year the Clippers will become one of two teams (the Philadelphia 76ers being the other) to play under an LED lighting system, according to Lee Zeidman, President of the Staples Center, Nokia Theatre, and L.A. Live, a position he assumed in July (although he's worked at the arena since its opening, and was actually its first full-time employee all the way back in 1998).
I recently got a chance to speak with Zeidman and learn more about the specifics of the new upgrades to Staples Center. Zeidman confirmed to me that the new lighting system would be in use for Clippers games starting Tuesday, and would be used exclusively for Clippers and Kings games this season. The Lakers were also offered the use of the LED system, but the team instead elected to stay with their current system.
If you attended a Kings game this preseason, you'll have noticed that the new lights create an effect similar to the Lakers' own theatrical lighting, by focusing on the game action and dimming lights on the crowd. The Clippers' lighting won't be quite as dark in the crowd, though; according to Zeidman, this is due to the NBA's guidelines for LED lighting, which differ from the requirements for arenas with more traditional lighting systems.
Zeidman was also able to give me more information on the technical specifications of the new system, which was produced by the Canadian company Lidlum and distributed through Solotech in Las Vegas. Staples Center employees installed 120 dual LED lights in the catwalk above the arena over the summer. The lights will have slightly different settings for basketball and hockey games (4500 v. 5600K, respectively, meaning there's slightly more blue in the lights during Kings games).
The new lights are beneficial for many reasons beyond being more environmentally friendly and sustainable than the previous system. They're also easier to maintain, and produce less heat. I asked Zeidman if this would affect the temperature at games, but he reassured me that it would have no tangible effect on fans (although it will make it easier for Staples' HVAC system to control building temperatures). More importantly, the lights save a lot of money for the building over time. According to the arena's financial projections, they'll save $280,000 this year, $800,000 over the next five, and $2.6 million over ten — about two Hedo Turkoglus, for those of you counting at home (if you're confused about the fluctuating savings rates, it's because of annually varying utility costs from the City of Los Angeles).
The lights are only one of several upgrades over the offseason; Toshiba also installed energy-saving LEDs in several parking garages, as well as new interactive displays in the main concourse. Other parts of Staples Center and L.A. Live have also been upgraded or renovated, helping the arena maintain its place as one of the best in the NBA and North American sports.
For the Clippers, the more theatrical lighting and other stadium upgrades are just another part of Steve Ballmer's efforts to give Clippers fans a live game experience worthy of the franchise he wants to make America's Team.