Outdoor Sports Lighting

LED lighted soccer facility located adjacent to a residential neighbourhood. The photo was taken approximately 150 meters from the field edge.

There has been a significant increase in the number of outdoor sports areas built in urban and suburban neighbourhoods; at schools, parks, and outdoor play areas. The excessive amount of light associated with these is a nuisance for neighbourhoods and creates significant environmental impacts.

Historically it has been difficult to control the light “lumens” to the level needed for dark-sky compliance because light fixtures used older bulbs lamp sources (incandescent, metal halide, high-pressure sodium, etc.). These bulbs and the reflectors housing them are too large to effectively shape and focus the light onto the field of play, causing light spillage, glare, and impacting nocturnal wildlife and the surrounding communities.

very bright uplighting glare from badly installed sports lighting.
Very bright uplighting glare from badly installed sports lighting (near Stonehenge). Image: CfDS
These two photos were taken at the same facility, on opposite sides of the access road. (Left) Pointed toward the athletic field. (Right) Pointed toward the neighbourhood.

Recent advances in LED lighting technology offer lighting designers the opportunity to develop lighting sources strong enough to light the field of play, BUT small enough to be effectively shielded. With this technology, recreational sports lighting can be configured and designed to be effectively shielded to illuminate the field of play and minimize or eliminate glare and light trespass.

The IDA Technical Committee released the criteria for IDA Community-Friendly Outdoor Sports Lighting in March 2018:

  1. Minimises neighbourhood lighting nuisances by greatly reducing the allowable spill and glare disruption. Quantitative pass/fail thresholds are established.
  2. Manages high angle glare, thus off-site light trespass and sky glow effects due to direct and reflected light are dramatically lower.
  3. Mandates curfew requirements, thus mitigating neighbourhood nuisance factors and sky glow effects which benefit flora/fauna and night sky enthusiasts’ and astronomers’ views of the night skies during peak viewing periods.
  4. Limits the class of play to recreational levels, thus discouraging over-lighting practices.
  5. Promotes “Best Lighting” practices that minimize lumen densities, which reduces energy consumption, benefiting the environment at large.
Bad Sports Lighting in West England showing two pictures one with the lights on and terrible glare, and the other with lights off and a good dark sky.
Bad Sports Lighting in West England, turned on or off.

Now sports lighting designers can apply to IDA-UK for certification of their designs. Fields in full compliance with the IDA Criteria for Community-Friendly Outdoor Sports Lighting (PDF) can then receive recognition from IDA and an award plaque, recognising the minimisation of light pollution.