Walter Pyramid LED Lighting Upgrade at CSU Long Beach

Opened in 1994 and covered in dark-blue corrugated aluminum cladding, the Walter Pyramid is an icon on the CSU Long Beach campus, providing seating for up to 8,500 fans who attend basketball, volleyball and other sporting events. The 18-story building houses three full basketball courts, five volleyball courts, a fitness center and an educational conference center. To keep the building current with today’s energy and technology needs, campus facility managers recently replaced the metal halide lighting with state-of-the-art dimmable LED lighting and advanced digital controls.

Sports arena lighting quality — illumination levels, distribution and glare avoidance — is not only critical for athletes and their performance, but also for enhancing the drama of athletic events experienced by fans.

Lighting campus sports arenas presents multiple challenges. Traditional metal halide fixtures are energy intensive and most cannot be dimmed to conserve energy when full brightness is not required, for example during practices and non-televised events. Metal halide systems have high maintenance costs due to difficulties of replacing lamps and ballasts located high above the floor and seating areas. At CSULB’s Walter Pyramid, additional issues with metal halide fixtures included excessive noise and heat, lack of uniformity in lighting coverage, and highly limited controls.


Publicity image of the selected product, the ‘All Field’ fixtures by Ephesus

CSULB’s recent lighting upgrade provides robust solutions to these problems, and adds many new useful capabilities. The project was launched in 2015 through meetings among stakeholders, leading to a lighting study conducted the following year. The study evaluated existing conditions, researched arena lighting and control technologies, and outlined relevant Title-24 requirements.

After conducting extensive research on available technologies, the project team ultimately selected ‘All Field’ fixtures by Ephesus. The lighting study also recommended removal of 69 existing 1000-watt metal halide fixtures, and replacement with 48 new 650-watt LED fixtures. Four red-blue-green (RGB) LED fixtures were also added for special effects. In addition to saving electricity, the overall reduction in the number of lights creates a cleaner architectural appearance in the open roof structure of the Pyramid.


The CSULB men's volleyball team celebrating it's 2018 national championship win in the Walter Pyramid.

The new control system, Vision.net 4.5 by Philips, offers many new capabilities: multi-scene settings, scheduled sweep, preset settings for light shows and special effects, remote access and control, and user-level programmed features. Activity-based dimming scenes provide additional energy savings and optimize the service life of lamps. Finally, a portable touchscreen station by ETC, a maker of lighting and rigging control systems, enables remote control and programming of the lights.

The project is estimated to reduce annual lighting use by 72 percent, and save approximately $49,000 per year in energy and operational costs. When utility incentives are factored in, the savings provide a simple payback of just over eight years.


A wrestling match one of the building's spaces.

The project team learned several important lessons likely to be useful to campuses considering sports arena LED upgrades. Most importantly, the lighting study was a key part of the project success. Since LED and control technologies are constantly evolving, it was important to be current with the latest in product alternatives. The team also notes that maintenance cost avoidance is an important consideration when calculating the project’s return on investment; in this case, it reduced the payback from 12.7 to 8.2 years. Additional lessons learned include the value of working with utility representatives to identify energy rebates, and the importance of commissioning and training of campus staff in the proper use the new systems.

Overall the project is on track to deliver the estimated energy and maintenance savings. Before dimming scenes and time schedules had been fully established, preliminary measured savings show a 40 percent savings. In addition, Paul Wingco, the Interim Director of Facilities Management, notes that facility managers are impressed with the light quality and new controllability functions, and that facility electricians appreciate not having to respond to frequent lamp outages.

Building images courtesy of CSU Long Beach, product image by Eaton, wrestling image by Daniel Hernandez.

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Green Features
  • Fully dimmable arena LED lighting
  • Color changeable LEDs for special effects
  • Fixture level digital controls with advanced capabilities
  • Remote access and control
  • Fewer fixtures for improved architectural appearance
  • Portable touchscreen station
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