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Enhancing Safety and Performance with Proper Football Field Lighting

Oftentimes when you think of a Monday night football game the bright lights illuminating the field or stadium comes to mind. Those bright lights have a larger impact and purpose than simply being an aesthetic addition. Football field lighting can directly impact each teams’ performance and can ultimately cost them the game.

With most football games being held at night, playing under poor lighting conditions can result in several issues. Poor or inadequate lighting can hinder the player’s ability to see which can cause unnecessary injuries and affect the game’s integrity. Proper lighting is necessary to enhance the players’ safety, optimize their visibility, and improve the overall game experience.

In today's post we will be diving deeper into what factors are crucial to consider when choosing adequate lighting technology that enhances visibility while reducing glare on football fields.


What Factors to Consider When Choosing Football Field Lighting

Choosing the proper football field lighting depends on several factors. Following these guidelines guarantees better illumination on the field for both players and spectators.

  • Field Measurements
  • Lighting Standards
  • Pole Placement
  • Max/Min Ratio
  • LED Lighting


Football Field Measurements

It is important before considering any types of lighting equipment to understand the sizing and proportions of a football field. A typical American football field is 120 yards long and 53.3 yards wide. The two goal lines are 110 yards apart from each other and the end zone between the goal line and the end line is typically 10 yards wide as displayed in the diagram below.

Stouch Lighting Football Size Guide Lengths and Dimensions


Lighting Standards

Lighting standards for football fields do vary depending on level of play. IES (Illuminating Engineering Society) recommends the following footcandle (fc) minimums for different classes of play:

  1. Class I: Recreational (Limited or no spectators): 20 foot candle average
  2. Class II: High School (Up to 2,000 spectators): 30 foot candle average
  3. Class III: High School (Up to 5,000 spectators): 50 foot candle average
  4. Class IV: College: 100-150 foot candle average

The averages below depicts the lighting standard for American football fields divided further into six classes of play with the recommended lux minimums.

  1. Class I: Training and entertainment: 20 fc Average
  2. Class II: Amateur competition and professional training: 30f c Average
  3. Class III: Professional competition: 50 fc Average
  4. Class IV: General TV broadcast: 100 fc Average 
  5. Class V: TV broadcast international competition: 140 fc Average
  6. Class VI: High-definition TV broadcast of large international competitions: 200 fc Average

As you can see, the level of light needed to illuminate a football field depends largely on the amount of spectators the field is built to accommodate, as well as the level of play and competition. High school football is a significant event that often garners attention, with games frequently televised and a substantial number of spectators, both in-person and watching from home. While the scale may differ from college football, where tens of thousands of fans pack large stadiums, the lighting requirements for high school and lower levels, such as Pop Warner, should still be considered. The recommended amount of footcandles or lux may not be as high as in larger stadiums, but it is essential to ensure adequate lighting to maintain player safety and enhance the overall game experience.


Pole Placement

The most typical setup for poles is 4-poles, but 6-pole and 8-pole setups are also common as depicted in the diagram below. Football fields must always have an equal number of poles on each side of the field to eliminate shadows. With 4-poles, there will be two at or near the end zones. If you were to increase to 6-poles, the additional poles will line up with the 50-yard line. And with 8-poles, most football fields will place one at each end zone and one around each 30-yard line. When dealing with large stadiums or fields, the poles may be placed between bleachers or stands to avoid obstructing the view of the spectators. 

Stouch Lighting Pole Placement for Football Field Lighting

Max/min ratios

A max/min ratio measures how even the lighting in a given space is. It is important for there to be even lighting across the field to enhance the players’ visibility to avoid any injuries. The ratios are calculated by dividing the maximum amount of foot-candles present in an area by the lowest amount of foot-candles present in the same area.  

A max/min ratio of under 3.0 is generally considered to be even lighting with no shadows on the lit surface. For high school level and below, a max/min ratio of 2.5 or below is acceptable. For college and higher, a ratio of 2.0 or below is necessary. 


LED Lighting

With the evolution of technology, football field and stadium lighting requirements have grown much more stringent, including the use of the most advanced lighting technology, LED, to illuminate the arenas.

Generally speaking football fields and stadiums tend to use LED lighting fixtures with wattages ranging between 300w and 1250w, depending on the number of fixtures per pole, number of poles, pole heights, and pole spacings. LED lighting fixtures produce very little glare, which helps the players see the ball and each other at the speed of play. For example a wide receiver will not lose the ball under LED lighting while running a route, which means he has a better chance of a completion and of having the visibility to avoid a tackle.  

Most football fields currently have metal halide light fixtures, which is an HID (high-density discharge) lamp which has been known to become less efficient overtime. It is recommended to convert metal halide light fixtures to LED football field lighting fixtures.

Stouch Lighting Football Field Lighting


How LED Football Field Lighting Directly Affects the Players and Spectators

Football field LED lighting systems can be used to highlight key players or plays, providing the players with improved visibility and fans a truly immersive experience of the game. Players will be able to recognize potentially dangerous situations earlier and avoid the risk of injury, while spectators can feel safer and have a more enjoyable experience at a well-lit facility. LED Football field lighting improves the overall quality of the football experience, making it more enjoyable for everyone in attendance.

If HID lamps such as metal halide lights are used on football fields, they create bright spots and dark spots which will affect the players to see the speed of the ball and the viewing experience for spectators. This is a big disadvantage for a player needing to determine the position of the ball in one second before he can make his next move which can result in a tackle.


Our Final Thoughts

In conclusion, installing the appropriate LED sports lighting helps ensure that players have an even playing field when it comes to visibility. After all, football games should be based on skill and strategy—not on who has the best eyesight in dimly lit environments. Contact us at Stouch Lighting today to begin investing in an advanced lighting system for your football field, so that your teams can make sure that their players can see clearly during night games and make the right plays.