Australia’s ‘first LED football field’ reaping big maintenance savings

Innovative lighting at this football field in southeast Queensland could help give Lockyer Valley Demons the competitive edge by providing brighter light for players to train under.

In what is believed to be the first LED lighting installation at an AFL sports field, the new Cahill Park sporting complex in Gatton has been trialling LED lights on half the oval but will shortly have the whole ground lit by 24 AAA-Lux luminaires, achieving 100 lux. As the lights are all IP addressed they have the capacity to dim uniformly to 50 lux for juniors, and worn areas of the field can be easily ‘zoned off’.

‘The smart control means the light can gradually be increased as the sun goes down or when there’s cloud coming over,’ explains Craig Nicholls, managing director of Jasstech, the supplier of the lights.

‘Plus the lights instantly strike up so there’s no waiting 20-30 minutes for them to warm up before a training session,’ he says.

Being able to control the lights better was one reason why Lockyer Valley Regional Council decided to install them. ‘The guys using the field are over the moon and really like the ability to set at 50 per cent or full,’ says Trent Nibbs sports, recreation and community grants officer Lockyer Valley Regional Council. ‘Plus the quality of light is much cleaner; we’ll be looking to upgrade our other sporting facilities to LED in the future.’

Although widely used in Europe, the AAA-Lux luminaires are relatively new to the Australian sports lighting arena. Justin Albin, Jasstech’s director of technology and development says the light’s optics can provide nine different beam angles, and these ensure the lights deliver the right performance at different pole heights and in various locations.

The lights are also remotely monitored, Albin says, so Jasstech can address any issues accordingly.

But it’s not just the footie players who are benefitting from the new lights. There are also savings on energy and maintenance costs for Lockyer Valley Regional Council.

Nibbs predicted savings of up to $700,000 in maintenance costs over the 25-year (or more) life of the bulbs. ‘Changing one metal halide can bulb costs us between $1,000 and $1,500 as we have to hire a cherry picker,’ he said. ‘We had a bulb changed last week on another facility, and the very next day, another bulb went!’

Although the LEDs are more expensive than the metal halides upfront, the energy savings are expected to be at least 30 per cent; but Nicholls suspects council will save more. ‘By switching and dimming efficiently and effectively, similar projects we know have had as high as 60 or 70 per cent savings.’

He’s expecting to get a return on the investment in the new LED lights in two to three years – four at the most.

Other advantages of the new luminaires include reduced weight on the poles, and because they are wireless and capable of smart management, reduced cabling costs at installation.

Having installed these types of luminaires into several other sporting facilities such as tennis courts and hockey and soccer pitches Nicholls believes LED is the way forward for sporting arenas. As well as saving on energy and maintenance costs, he thinks the light LEDs emit is superior to that of a metal halide. ‘From a player’s perspective, you can see the ball more clearly, have better peripheral vision and colours are better. Plus there is less light flicker for TV viewers and it gives them a far better image quality,’ he says.  

As for Lockyer Valley Demons, while it can’t necessarily be attributed to the LED lights, after training under the new lights, they appear to be on a winning streak; as reported in a local paper recently, its U12s side had a massive win over Goondiwindi in round 14, and the U14s beat Goondiwindi and Chinchilla. The men’s team meanwhile beat Coolaroo in round 15.