A $96-million sports complex featuring a 280,000-sq-ft grandstand, 36,000-sq-ft simulcast facility, saddling paddock/jockey quarters, barn, and dirt/turf racetrack, Lone Star Park, located between Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, attracts about 10,200 visitors per day. But while fans focused on the flashy silks of the popular jockeys at one of the track’s first races, it was the new lighting system that captured all of the nighttime action.

In the initial planning stage, owners needed a lighting system that could showcase the facility, while meeting guidelines for thoroughbred racing, television broadcasting, simulcast, and photofinish needs of the park’s evening races. To bring all the requirements into focus, Danny Hossley of Hossley Lighting Associates, Dallas, worked with owners’ representatives Precept Builders, HKS Architects, Blum Consulting Engineers, and Mills Electrical Contractors to put together a comprehensive lighting spec.

Some factors considered in selecting the light source were luminous efficacy, color properties, and restrike and runup times in the event of a power outage. Other points included:

  • The fact that excess direct or reflected glare and harsh shadows produced by the lighting system can hamper seeing and cause visual confusion.

  • Use of lighting equipment you can shield after installation, if necessary.

  • Use of fixtures that are easy to mount and secure.

  • Use of fixtures with tamper resistant hardware and other heavy-duty characteristics, and the ability to have electrical components mounted to a diecast aluminum housing for proper transfer of the ballast’s generated heat.

In their initial project assessment, the team addressed many lighting issues relating to rider safety and spectator/television viewing. The high-intensity-discharge (HID) lamp selected is the metal-halide (MH) type, with ratings from 50W to more than 1500W. The popular single-ended MH lamp is available in three different outer-bulb finishes: clear, phosphor-coated and diffuse-coated. The team chose the clear type because it permits optical control from a fixture. Standard MH lamps produce white light with color temperatures ranging from 3200K to 4000K and CRI from 65 to 75; CRI refers to a lamp’s color rendering index, which judges how accurately different colors are rendered by the light source. MH lamps are available with an average rated life of 20,000 hrs and higher.

In general, MH is the most popular HID source for indoor and outdoor illumination of large areas. Initially noted for their unflattering color and rapid deterioration (color shift), these lamps feature greatly improved performance. Approximately 1200 1650W Venture Sport 60 MH lamps light the racetrack.

“In combination with the performance of GE Power Spot fixtures, we could achieve economy of design with the Sport 60 lamp, compared with the conventional 1,500W lamp,” said Hossley. “We could use less fixtures than if we went with the conventional 1,000W lamp. The lumen maintenance was better, and the color temperature was very meaningful for TV broadcasting. Service life was important to us and installation expenses, with fewer light fixtures, makes the system easier to maintain. In any venue where television broadcast is involved, color consistency, adequate vertical footcandles, and illumination ratios are important.”

At the parking lot, where both safety and security topped the list of concerns, the group installed approximately 150 1,000 MH lamps in “VL” fixtures to help speed the exiting spectators. By selecting a 1000W MH light source, you can space out the pole-mounted fixtures at six times the mounting height, thus reducing the number of poles required in the lot. The paddock area incorporates 24 1000W MH lamps in fixtures for illumination.

Since the installation, the owners of the Lone Star Park find that well-designed lighting is an investment that “pays off” in the long term.