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Pirates Now Playing Under More Than 100,000 New LED Lights at PNC Park

Gene J. Puskar
90.5 WESA
The Pittsburgh Pirates take on the Atlanta Braves at 1:05 p.m. for their 2017 home opener. Unlike the Reds game picture here last September, meteorologists project frigid temps and a chance of snow.

The Pittsburgh Pirates became one of 12 Major League Baseball teams to install LED sports lighting, just in time for the team's home opener Friday against the Atlanta Braves.

Mike Lorenz, president of Eaton’s Ephesus Lighting, which designed and installed the system, said the LEDs will consume about 70 percent less electricity and will last far longer than the old metal halide bulbs.

“You can operate our lights for upwards of 40,000 or 50,000 hours before you see any noticeable decrease in the intensity of the light, and even at that point, it’s very, very nominal,” he said.

Credit Eaton's Ephesus Lighting
PNC Park's new lights can go from total darkness to full intensity in less than two seconds.

Lorenz said traditional sports lighting systems lose about 30 percent intensity after just 5,000 hours. A typical MLB park runs its lights for around 1,000 hours a year, so several seasons will pass before the LEDs need to be replaced.

The LEDs also light up much more quickly. Lorenz said it takes less than two seconds for the lights to go from complete darkness to full intensity, compared to 15-20 minutes traditional systems take to light up.

The system is also computerized, which means it can be coordinated with game-time entertainment.

“The technology that’s in place today is becoming obsolete,” Lorenz said. “There are fewer companies making the old bulb system and the old ballast system. If you have a system that historically was in place for a few years, you’re going to find that maintaining it is becoming increasingly more difficult.”

It takes at least 100,000 individual LEDs to fully light PNC Park. MLB has established rules for how bright each area of the field must be, and measures that brightness in a unit called foot-candles. Imagine that a candle’s flame filled an area of one square foot. A foot-candle is the amount of light emitted by that surface when viewed from one foot away.

Lorenz said his company aims to illuminate the field with about 200-250 foot-candles of light.

Pirates President Frank Coonelly said the upgrade will make PNC Park “an even better place to watch and play.”