Visibility on tennis courts is a touchy subject for tennis players. The older they get the harder it is to adjust to varying daytime and nighttime ambient lighting conditions. It’s a touchy subject for tennis club owners, too. No matter how good their court lights are, tennis players always complain they can’t see the ball properly. It is commonly believed the more bulbs and the more wattage you pack onto tennis court, the better the visibility. More wattage also means more electricity needs and electric power is one of the biggest cost factors for any club. One Southern California company has a different approach producing tennis court lights that are much brighter without the requirement for more electricity. Visionaire Advantage is the latest in tennis lighting technology because the company developed a product that disseminates light more efficiently.
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In my quest for promoting recycling and reducing waste in the US tennis industry I came across the issue of energy used by tennis court lighting fixtures. Playing tennis on the courts of the Flint Canyon Tennis Club in La Canada one night opened my eyes to a whole new bright world of night time tennis. Horacio Tamborini, owner of the club, explained that he recently replaced all his lights with the new system called Visionaire Advantage, which was supposed to create more light output with the same 1,000 watt bulbs and those bulbs would last longer. Being an electrical engineer by trade, I had a few doubts about those claims and needed to get to the bottom of it. A 1,000 watt bulb is a 1,000 watt bulb. No way can you get one to produce more light than the other. Right?
Many of the conventional tennis light fixtures in use throughout the country come with 1,000 watt light bulbs. The amount of watts represents how much power is being used by that bulb, not how much light is being generated. That light output is measured in lumens or foot-candles. The name “foot-candle” conveys “the illuminance cast on a surface by a one-candela source one foot away.” Wikipedia explains that, “The unit is defined as the amount of illumination the inside surface of a 1-foot radius sphere would be receiving if there were a uniform point source of one candela in the exact center of the sphere. This can be thought of as the amount of light that actually falls on a given surface. The foot-candle is equal to one lumen per square foot.”
It takes 100 watts for an incandescent bulb to generate about 1,600 lumens, but it only takes between 25 and 30 watts for a compact fluorescent bulb to generate the same amount of light. The lamp used most often in modern tennis court lighting fixtures is Metal Halide, a member of the High Intensity Discharge family of lamps. One question needs to be answered in order to understand the complexity of the quality of tennis court lighting fixtures: Why is it that a normal fixture with a 1,000 watt Metal Halide lamp is only capable of producing light output of about 60 foot-candles and the same fixture manufactured by Visionaire with the same 1,000 Watt lamp produces 115 foot-candles?
In order to get to the bottom of this I decided to pay Visionaire a visit. Visionaire Lighting, LLC is located in Rancho Dominguez, between Los Angeles and Long Beach. Tennis Division Sales Manager David Fried plays tennis at the Rolling Hills Country Club in Rolling Hills Estates, located next to the Jack Kramer Club. He explains that the company was started 11 years ago by his Dad and CEO Bryan Fried and a lighting expert by the name of Bill Hein. David Fried runs the Tennis Division for the last 5 years and has made tremendous inroads with tennis clubs in Southern California as well as the rest of the country. The company, which manufactures and sells an entire range of high performance outdoor lighting fixtures, has grown to 300 employees in the last decade. He works with representatives all over the country and points out his East Coast Distributor is Har-Tru Sports, a well known leading manufacturer of tennis court surfaces.
David gives me a tour through the offices and their very impressive Vision Center multi-media room for product presentations. We end up meeting the man behind the Visionaire product success: Bill Hein, Vice President Product & Technology. As a national and Southern California ranked tennis player, Bill knows a thing or two about tennis court lighting. He takes one of the Advantage fixtures down and explains why they are so much brighter and efficient than the competition.
“Usual 1,000 watt tennis court lighting fixtures start out with 60 foot-candles of lighting output, but they’re down to 30 foot-candles after 6-8 months. That’s an energy depreciation of 50% in those first 6-8 months. And that’s also why those bulbs should be changed once or (even better) twice a year.” I seem to recall nighttime tennis on many public and private courts where the light was so dim, it was impossible for me to play my game and have fun. Bill explains that Visionaire Advantage fixtures start out with 115 foot-candles and after 2 years they’re still at 100 foot-candles. From the same 1,000 watt bulbs?
“Our goal is to cut energy cost, double the light output, eliminate hotspots, and produce very little light spillage. And it’s the reflectors that make the difference. We are using the most advanced innovations in reflector technology. In fact, our company is best known for our patented Vision Reflector System™, which significantly boosts photometric output to reduce both initial and performance costs.”
I’m also learning that Advantage fixtures come equipped with Pulse Start Metal Halide bulbs. Igniting the bulbs with a high voltage power source means much faster cold and warm start-up time. Everyone experiencing lights turning off in the middle of a tennis game because you forgot to turn the knob knows what that normally means: Having to wait 15-20 minutes before the lamps are ready to ignite again. Visionaire Advantage Pulse Start Metal Halide bulbs, according to Bill Hein, take only 2-5 minutes to reignite. In my opinion, every public court in the country should use those bulbs! Bill also points out that the bulbs have more consistent thermal characteristics and better color uniformity, producing a brighter, more natural white light.
David shows me some amazing pictures of new installations taken by night from above. Since Advantage lighting fixtures have virtually no light spillage, they are Dark-Sky approved for environmentally-conscientious and neighborhood-friendly lighting. More information about the subject of light pollution can be seen on the FAQ page of the International Dark Sky Association’s web site. “We can produce that high quality product and provide real energy savings for our clients,” says David. “With Visionaire, a tennis club can go from 1,000 watts to 575 watts and still enjoy 20% more light.”
Southern California Clubs that have fully or partially converted to Visionaire Advantage are Flint Canyon Tennis Club, Calabasas Tennis and Swim Center, Malibu Racquet Club, LA Tennis Club, Brentwood Country Club, Riviera Country Club, Mulholland Tennis Club, Claremont McKenna College, Morley Field San Diego, Poinsettia Park Carlsbad.
Always asking for a charity angle in many of my reports I found out about Bill Hein’s involvement with the Golden Heart Ranch project for autistic young adults. Founded by his wife Rose van Wier Hein after they had to realize their son Justin was diagnosed autistic, the organization’s web site states that 80% of special needs children are not able to move out of the home upon exiting the school system, because there is nowhere to go. It also states that Golden Heart RanchTM is dedicated to building a life center residential community where special needs young adults can live, learn, work and play side-by-side in a harmonious and caring environment that is emotionally and physically safe.
I applaud those efforts and plan on reporting more about the Golden Heart Ranch project, especially since Bill mentioned there will be a tennis court on the Ranch.
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