How much money do lights at baseball stadiums cost the team owners?
July 13, 2020 1:42 PM   Subscribe

What is the cost of baseball stadium lights for the owners?

We've been watching Ken Burns' excellent "Baseball" Documentary Series, and my husband is wondering: How many more ticket sales are needed to cover the extra cost of lighting baseball and football stadiums, for the owners? The lights were initially adopted on the idea that night games would have higher attendance.

Does anyone have a "ball park estimate"? Thanks in advance to sports fans, mathematics whizzes, or anyone who might have an idea!
posted by ragtimepiano to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I did some looking around, because my alma mater just installed permanent lights for the football stadium a couple of years ago. That was part of a larger renovation project, and I can't find anything that isolates the cost of the lightning from the rest of the project. I did come across something saying that a permanent lighting project at our archrivals' toilet bowl stadium cost $1.8 million, which was about a decade ago. I also saw that renting temporary lights, which we did before installing the permanent ones (we traditionally don't play many night games) cost $80,000 per game, also in 2010 dollars. Source.
posted by kevinbelt at 2:01 PM on July 13, 2020

A baseball field can be approximated as a square, 200m on each side, so about 40,000 square meters.

Direct sunlight is 1kw/m^2, but you only need a fraction of that. For example, I am writing this right now in a room that is about 12 square meters, being lit up by about 0.1 m^2 of sunlight. (Plus a little bit more light from the monitors.) A 100-watt incandescent bulb should be enough to light up 1-2 square meters.

So, to a first approximation, you need around 20,000 100-watt light bulbs, fixtures, power cables, mounting hardware, and other accoutrements.

Of course, you're probably using something fancier (more efficient or reliable) than off-the-shelf light bulbs. But 20,000 100W light bulbs is a good first guess.

How much that would actually cost depends strongly on the era in which you're installing them, local labor costs, permitting costs, zoning costs, and a million other things.
posted by Hatashran at 2:14 PM on July 13, 2020

Are you looking for the one-time cost of installation? Or the per-game cost of operation?
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 2:16 PM on July 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

Not a lighting engineer so I can't do the math, but you're generally looking for 30-50 footcandles of light on the playing surface; stadium lighting is usually of the HID type, which is a bit more efficient for light per unit of electricity than incandescent.
posted by LionIndex at 2:23 PM on July 13, 2020

Response by poster: Looking at both the one-time cost of installation and the per-game cost after.
posted by ragtimepiano at 2:26 PM on July 13, 2020

To say nothing of: the way the question is phrased, it assumes the cost is being paid for by ticket sales. In reality, the local municipality likely owns and maintains the stadium at great expense, and the team gets a sweetheart deal on a lease that doesn't nearly cover the cost of building or maintaining the stadium.

And even in the good times, many teams didn't necessarily rely on ticket sales for income.

Let's look at the Royals for fun:

Says gate receipts were "only" $49 million in 2019, with player salaries costing $122 million. So why did someone pay a billion dollars for the team? Well, they're getting $50 million a year for the TV rights, and revenue sharing to the tune of $1-200 million per

I know that's a bit of a dodge on an answer, but the real answer is: none. Lighting doesn't cost the owners anything. They're swimming in so much money, and cities are such idiots about sports teams, that any slight increase in cost is nothing compared to the hundreds of millions in the vault they're swimming in.
posted by booooooze at 2:35 PM on July 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

Sporting News article from 1940 has attendance figures from when it was new. There was probably some novelty factor, but night games vastly outdrew day games.

There’s also higher TV ratings for night games.

Nowadays you mostly see day games on weekends, so there may not be as much difference. Also, of course, the lights come with the stadium.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 2:43 PM on July 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

My school district just installed lights on the football field. For reasons, I am intimately knowledgeable on the cost of turf, lights and per usage lights.

First, light technology has made leaps and bounds since the Cubbies added lights in I think 1988. They were the final team to add lights. The newer stadiums such as Cuti/Shea and Yankee Stadium use led lights that are cost effective on a per game usage. For our football field, for an hour of lights, we estimate about $30. Let's multiply that by 5 for a baseball stadium then by 7 for the hours they may be in use. Figure a little more than $1,000 to run them. This is one high priced ticket at a NY baseball game. This does not account for the lights around the interior of the stadium or in the parking lots.

Installed, our lights cost $750,000. A small portion was upgrading the power to the field. Electrician and Con Ed had to get involved. I would guess that to properly light a major league baseball stadium it would be a one time fixed cost between $5 and $7 million. Major league games need there to be no shadows and need to be high enough for the outfielders to be able to look up for the ball without undue amounts of glare.

Back in the day, my guess is that the lights would pay for themselves in about 40 games. There are 81 home games. Figure a season to be conservative.

I sent an email to our lighting engineer that does solely sports fields. He may be able to give really good estimates or even exact costs.
posted by AugustWest at 3:03 PM on July 13, 2020 [8 favorites]

LED lights, specifically, are dramatically cheaper.
posted by theora55 at 3:34 PM on July 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: According to this Chicago Tribune article circa 1988 it cost an estimated $5 million to install the lights at Wrigley Field and would use an estimated $1,000 in electricity per game. Double those numbers to account for inflation up to today.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:23 AM on July 14, 2020

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