Why did the lights go out at the Superbowl?



It seems like the question on everyone’s lips is, “Why did the lights go out at the Superbowl?” While we may learn more details from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in the next few days, the outage was likely due to a blown fuse or a tripped breaker and the delay was because the lights were metal halide.

Our clues:

It wasn’t just the lights. We know the issue was not only related to the field lighting because the announcers’ booth was also without power.

Everything wasn’t back at once. Through the outage, we heard chatter from the announcers, trying to talk intelligently about the delay, but with no real information. So, if the announcers’ booth was back up and running, why did we still have a dark field?

What happened:

The reason that we were all watching players stretching on the field in the dark instead of finishing the game is the type of lighting that sports stadiums use. The fixtures lighting the field are called metal halide, which produce the crisp white light needed for television production.

While this is a fairly efficient light source, it does have one drawback: metal halide lamps do not achieve their full light output immediately after starting. Rather, they require up to 15 minutes to reach 90% of their full light output. This period is called the warm up time and is why once the power was back on in the stadium, the lights stayed off and delayed the game further.

Worse yet, after a lamp has been on for a period of time and then turned off, it cannot be immediately turned back on because of the arc tube. The arc tube must have a chance to cool down or the lamp will not restart, also known as re-strike time.

Re-strike times for traditional metal halide lamps can take 15 minutes or longer. Remember how the announcers kept talking about 15 minutes until the resumption of the game? I can’t say for sure, but these numbers sound like they are referring to the re-strike time and the warm up time.

Future Solution:

While metal halide has been the standard for many years, LED is now coming into its own as an economical and reliable light source. The best part? LED does not have the re-strike issue. A quick internet search will yield results indicating that this type of technology is being used at the Olympics and that several companies produce LED sport lighting fixtures.

Now, you will have something else to chat about at next year’s Superbowl party!