One morning in June of last year, Bob Bebber, general manager for the Ice Centre at the Promenade, flipped a switch, and the electricity meter at the rink began to spin much slower. That was the first day after the three-rink skating facility, located in Westminster, Colo., had completed an energy-efficient lighting retrofit designed to save it nearly $30,000 a year in energy costs.

The inspiration for upgrading the Centre’s lighting occurred years earlier when Chris Frank brought his son to hockey practice at the Ice Centre. Chris is more than just a dedicated hockey dad; he's the vice president of energy-efficient lighting contractor Colorado Lighting.

"The first time I walked into the Ice Centre, I saw a state-of-the-art skating facility being lit by inefficient metal halide lamps," says Frank.

The lamps he saw mounted above the Ice Centre's three rinks each used more than 1,000W of electricity. With more than 100 of these lamps being used, they accounted for a large chunk of the facility's energy bill every month.

Frank knew if he was allowed to retrofit the facility, he could cut the energy consumption of each fixture by 35% to 45%. However, convincing the Ice Centre to take on the retrofit wasn't an easy process.

In early 2011, the owner began exploring options for a lighting retrofit at the Ice Centre. He knew about the energy-saving potential of a retrofit, but had seen other facilities poorly retrofitted that ended up with inadequate lighting. In addition, when he began soliciting bids, he was put off by some contractors who recommended lowering the overall amount of light in his facility.

"NHL quality lighting is generally 100 footcandles or more, and that’s what we had with our metal-halide system," he says.

Because the Ice Centre is regularly used as a practice facility by visiting NHL teams in town to play the Colorado Avalanche, maintaining that quality of light was a critical factor in the retrofit. In order to design a lighting system that would both reduce energy consumption and improve the quality of light at the facility, Frank and his team at Colorado Lighting digitally modeled the entire facility.

Frank turned to Precision-Paragon [P2] for his lighting needs. This firm provided Colorado Lighting with photometric files for the fixtures it had chosen for the retrofit, which allowed the digital model of the Ice Centre to accurately depict the lighting levels that would be provided by the retrofit. This step was key in convincing the owner to move forward with the retrofit. Colorado Lighting designed a lighting system that used a combination of 10 lamp and 12 lamp T5HO fixtures.

Another significant factor for the Ice Centre was that Colorado Lighting managed the entire rebate process for the retrofit, unlike some of the other vendors that bid on the job. The project was eligible for more than $21,000 in energy efficiency rebates from the Ice Centre's utility provider, Xcel Energy.

Each fixture in the Ice Centre retrofit was manufactured with custom optics, spacing and reflector design at [P2]'s West Coast facility in Yorba Linda, Calif. This customization allowed Colorado Lighting's engineers to specify the ideal fixtures for the retrofit, maximizing both energy savings and lighting quality in the retrofit.

Because the Ice Centre is a busy facility — with all three of its rinks booked solid many days from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m.  — it was critical to minimize the interruption caused by the retrofit.

"When we actually began the on-site retrofit, all of the necessary planning and preparation had been done ahead of time," said Frank.

All that planning paid off, allowing all 102 fixtures at the Ice Centre to be replaced in just three weeks of on-site work.  This feat brings us back to that morning in June when Bob flipped the switch, or more accurately, flipped the switches, on the Ice Centre's brand new lighting system.

Colorado Lighting designed the system with bi-level switching, which allows each 10 lamp fixture to operate at 30, 60 or 100% of its available light output, and each 12 lamp fixture to operate at 33, 66 or 100% of its available light output. This setup allows the Ice Centre to match the light output of each fixture to the activity on the rink below.

For recreational skating, 30% of the fixtures' output is more than adequate. For league hockey play, 60% is generally ideal. And when visiting NHL teams are using the rink for practices, the full capacity of each fixture is used to make sure that there's enough light to see a puck moving at more than 90 miles per hour. This feature alone is expected to save the Ice Centre more than $10,000 a year in energy costs.

With the Ice Centre's previous metal-halide system, the only way to adjust lighting levels was to turn off every other fixture over a rink, creating uneven light levels and blind spots. With the new system, light levels can be adjusted uniformly across the entire surface of the ice. The new system has other advantages as well. Unlike the old metal halides, the Ice Centre's new lighting system doesn't take 10 minutes to warm up to full brightness.  This feature allows it to be turned on immediately before a skating session begins.

The new fixtures also operate without producing excess noise.

The new lamps also have much longer maintenance intervals. Before the upgrade, the rink staff was replacing six to eight lamps a month. Since the retrofit was completed in June, they have yet to replace any of the new fluorescent lamps. Then, there's the quality of light, characterized by the owner as "better, cleaner, and more consistent than our old system."