Concerns over wayward light have led to new technologies and techniques in illuminating sports fields, but the advances don't end there.
BY PAUL STEINBACH
Call it a power shortage of sorts in the Pacific Northwest. Each year, the parks and recreation department in King County, Wash., turns away hundreds of recreational sports teams in search of a place to play simply because it runs out of fields it can turn on - namely, those equipped with lights.
'These fields run every night until midnight," says Del Armstrong, whose Bellevue-based company, Soft Lighting Systems, manufactures the fixtures used to flood dozens of fields in the Seattle area with light. "It's amazing. We take people out there to show off our system, and here are two teams finishing up and two more teams warming up - at 10 or 11 o'clock at night. This is crazy, right?"
This, of course, is the way of the world today. Hundreds of players in every town are looking for healthy recreational opportunities and organized leagues in softball and soccer offer an increasingly popular choice. Many areas have sufficient playfields to accommodate this demand if it occurred in the middle of the day. Because the demand is for evening play, many of the parks are not used because they do not have lighting. In many cases the lack of lighted fields is a result of community resistance to lights more that the costs associated with their development.
Soft Lighting has opted to address lighting control issues by abandoning traditional notions of louvers, visors and tilted sports lighting luminaires. Instead we use a highly sophisticated optical assembly within a shoebox style enclosure. It directs the maximum light intensity at roughly a 55 to 60 degree angle with NO light emitted above the horizontal plane of the luminaire. This provides "state of the art" illumination for the players along with a dramatic reduction in the off site impact.
"It is our goal to unconditionally satisfy the players as well as the neighborhoods they play in." Del Armstrong, Founder SLS