GE Ingenuity Throws Dallas Cowboys Stadium to Technological Forefront

CLEVELAND, Ohio — (NYSE: GE)  As the largest NFL venue ever built, the Dallas Cowboys' new billion–dollar stadium is an engineering marvel. GE's contribution to the project — cost-effective and energy-efficient lighting and electrical distribution equipment — has satisfied the Texas-sized expectations of the Cowboys organization. For GE Appliances & Lighting, the charge was to go on offense, developing and delivering stadium lighting that provides uniform and maintained light across the field, while eliminating glare and shadows for fans in the stands and at home. 

“Our stadium has capacity for as many as 100,000 people, and our football games are some of the most watched in the NFL, so making sure our field has effective lighting is imperative to our business,” says Jack Hill, general manager, Cowboys Stadium. “We needed a proven and robust solution that could enhance and sustain the viewers' experience and GE delivered.”

Sports lighting
At the onset of the project, GE laid out a photometric design that took into account the complex problem of maintaining uniform lighting and light levels on the field that would eliminate shadows and glare for fans, as well as the multitude of High Definition TV (HDTV) cameras positioned throughout the stadium. “This is a complex process that takes substantial design time to render an optimal solution that works within the consulting engineer and architect's requirements,” says Jack Bohner, GE's commercial director – sports and entertainment. “This crucial step serves as the roadmap for delivering uniformity and continuity of light that provides a consistent appearance, style and light quality from any vantage point.”

The result of the GE-recommended design required 668 1500-watt PowrSpot® III luminaries with glare control and 96 1500-watt UltraSport™ luminaries with hot re-strike. The combination of these 764 luminaries makes up the main event lighting, or the entire football field's horizontal surface beyond the sidelines and end zones but not into the stands.

GE's innovative UltraSport offers advanced design light output and efficiency with excellent visibility and color rendering for players, spectators and broadcasters. It features a “hot re-strike” capability that enables the fixture to come back on almost instantaneously during a temporary loss of power. This attribute is critically important during sporting and other large stadium events since standard high-intensity-discharge (HID) sport lighting requires 11 to 15 minutes to cool down and come back on after a momentary loss of power. “Having thousands of fans sit in the dark for 15 minutes is not acceptable,” Bohner adds. “GE's technology solves this problem efficiently and really enhances the quality of light in the Cowboys stadium.”

GE's customized lighting solution of UltraSport and PowrSpot luminaries provides 300 foot candles of maintained light level on the field, which is above the NFL specification of 250 foot candles. Generally, the higher the foot candle level the better for the viewer, as long as it alleviates glare, hot spots and shadows for fans and cameras. In addition, 60 1500-watt PowrSpot III luminaries (non-event lighting) were supplied for use as house and security lighting.

LED lighting
The organization also engaged a lighting design firm, Craig Roberts Associates, Inc., (CRA), to analyze and design the lighting schematic in some of the suites and club space. The result was a more sophisticated and thoughtful lighting design.

Stephanie King, principal designer with CRA, worked to design the LED cove lighting. “We installed LEDs wherever an architectural opportunity presented itself,” she notes.

CRA integrated coves into dropped soffits, created lighted coffers, and incorporated up lighting within suspended decorative elements. Because of the linear footage involved, incandescent lighting was not an option. CRA specified the GE LED Cove Lighting System for its rich color quality, LED color consistency, integral driver and dimming simplicity.

“The use of GE LED lighting systems in coves has become an irresistible proposition for many businesses,” says GE's Bohner. “Paybacks based on the cost of the product and comparative energy and maintenance costs will invariably show that the GE LED Cove lighting system is preferable to halogen systems. The GE LED system offers a 50,000-hour rated life, so it could run continuously for more than five years.”

King adds: “We wanted to make the spaces feel warmer. It imparts a more residential feel while respecting the contemporary design and functionality of the stadium.”

Electrical distribution
Since sustained power in a stadium is imperative, GE developed a robust solution that includes 70 substations, 15 switchboards and a variety of other electrical distribution products to provide emergency power during an outage or surge. GE's quiet, reliable transformer operation requires no vaults for installation so the transformers can be located right at the load to provide the correct voltage for the stadium's requirements. This eliminates the need for long, costly, low-voltage feeders.

“Given the space constraints in the electrical rooms, the substations were a challenge to fit, but our manufacturing team and suppliers came up with an efficient size design that suited the space perfectly,” says Bohner. “Our solution is an ideal combination of technology and teamwork that exceeded original specifications and provides reliable and energy-efficient power for the stadium now and into the future.”