Buckeyes Saving Energy at the Schottenstein Center

Men’s Basketball Coach Thad Matta’s dedication to success for Ohio State’s players is widely recognized. What isn’t as obvious, however: His efforts to initiate infrastructure change in the gyms.

The Schottenstein Center, home to the team, recently flipped the switch toward LED lighting to meet the coach’s desire for brighter gyms.

When Michael Damas, assistant director, facility operations, at the Schott, started looking for ways to improve the lighting, he knew he had to find a solution that would not blind the players each time they looked up to take a shot.

The establishment of the university’s sustainability goals in 2015, and the community’s current trend toward energy efficiency, created a perfect opportunity to consider the LED alternative, which saves both money and energy.

LED lights are currently used in NBA and NHL facilities around the nation, a factor Damas says is taken into account for Ohio State players with potential for professional sports careers.

Damas and his team replaced the men’s practice gym lights (photo, right) in just one week; they will work on the women’s practice gym, which currently has metal halide lighting (photo, left), at the end of this month.

As for a lighting upgrade in Value City Arena, the main arena bowl, Damas says that will be a much more complicated task. There is a preliminary plan to replace the lights in the arena bowl for the main court.

“It’s hard,” Damas says. “You have to consider that although the practice gyms can be used for dining and other events, the main gym is much larger, hosts big events including concerts and hockey, and there are many more lights.”

Before the lighting implementation started, Coach Matta’s team practiced in a gym filled with 400-watt metal halide lights. Metal halide lights were at one point used in almost all big facilities. The output of these lights typically decreases by half within a couple of years, making them both costly and inefficient compared to today’s more sustainable alternatives like LEDs.

“We can’t know our total energy savings until the lights have been around longer and we can actually compare them to something,” Damas says.

A savings analysis submitted by a lighting contractor to Damas in January, however, gives a good indication of what to expect. The analysis projects the annual energy and cost savings expected with the proposed design recommendation, for the men’s practice gym specifically, based on annual usage hours and a utility rate of $0.0875 per kWh. That proposal projects annual energy savings of 65,327 kWh and cost savings of $5,716.10.

To accommodate the practice gym’s diverse uses, a mobile app controls the LED light fixtures, including brightness. Additionally, the digital feature shows current kWh use and compares that value to the halide lighting to calculate total energy savings. Damas says the app will be particularly helpful for the Value City Arena transition to LED lights.

The athletics department already made the switch to LED lighting at Bill Davis Baseball Stadium, Buckeye Softball Field and Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. The Ohio State Sustainability Fund, administered by the Office of Energy and Environment, supported those projects.

Written by Natalie Michalski, Communications Assistant