Cree LEDs light up the Super Bowl

It remains to be seen whether opposing quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Tom Brady will light up the scoreboard at Super Bowl XLIX, but it’s a sure bet that Durham-based Cree will light up the stadium.

Cree reports that the 312 LED lighting fixtures at the University of Phoenix Stadium, where Sunday’s contest is being played, feature no less than 44,928 Cree brand LEDs. The lighting fixtures themselves were made by Ephesus Lighting.

The LED fixtures replaced traditional metal halide fixtures and are 75 percent more energy-efficient – requiring 310,000 watts of energy rather than the 1.24 million watts consumed by the prior system, according to Cree.

“Our mission is 100 percent adoption of LED lighting,” said Mike Watson, vice president of product strategy. “For that to be possible, it means you have to address all lighting applications. Stadium lighting, both from an application standpoint and the marketing standpoint, is kind of the holy grail of lighting. … It’s the hardest application to address.”

The University of Phoenix Stadium is one of a small but growing number of stadiums and arenas that feature LED lights, including Raleigh’s PNC Arena, Watson said. PNC Arena’s lights were installed last year, making it the first National Hockey League venue to go with LED lights.

Cree specializes in high-power LEDs that generate more light. Many of its competitors focus on cheaper mid-power LEDs which are packaged together in much greater quantities to generate sufficient light, but that approach doesn’t meet the unique demands of stadium lighting, Watson said.

“We’re big on high power as the right long-term direction for most lighting applications,” he said.

The new LED fixtures in Phoenix provide nearly double the illumination of the traditional fixtures. That enabled the stadium to reduce the number of fixtures by more than half; it previously boasted 780 fixtures, according to Cree. Watson said that the LED lights in the stadium also upgrade the quality of illumination.

“It is brighter. It is clearer light, so it provides better contrasts. It doesn’t have the glare that metal halide has,” Watson said. “It also improves the viewing (experience) not just locally at the stadium but through TV as well.”