Pacers enhance look of home games with new LED lighting system

New uniforms. New court. New practice facility. New President of Basketball Operations. Nine new players. New PA announcer. New Team Store.

Continuing the offseason theme of newness surrounding the Indiana Pacers, the organization had a new lighting system installed inside the bowl area of Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

It was on display for the first time Tuesday night at the team’s lone home preseason game. And it was noticeable right away because it is different from what we were used to at The World’s Greatest Basketball Arena, as Mark Boyle, the longtime radio voice of the team, commonly refers to it. (And he’s not wrong.)

The lighting spotlights the court and darkens the rest of the arena, similar to stage lighting. All eyes on the game.

The change comes after 19 years of the old system.

“The lights that we put in are LEDs. They are going last a lot longer, there’s a lot less electricity running them, and we got a lot more opportunities to turn them instant on or instant off,” PS&E President Rick Fuson explained after Tuesday’s preseason game, a 108-89 Pacers win over Maccabi Haifa of Israel.

“The other ones we had in from the beginning of the building were shade systems, so it was a mechanical system. With LEDs, it’s an instant on and instant off [system].”

The upgrades were covered by the city’s Capital Improvement Board. In 2014, the CIB committed to spend $160 million over 10 years to help cover operating costs and upgrades.

View of the new court and new lighting system.

“[With] the other lights, it was difficult to get mechanical pieces so it had really become obsolete,” Fuson said.

Now the lighting system will be more reliable and open the experience up, “in terms of the whole theatrical opportunities we have.

“We can flash (the lights). There’s a lot of different things that you’ll see about them over the year. It’s today’s technology and we had the opportunity to that so it was the right time to change.”

The new look had be approved by the NBA. Fans of the league are used to it for Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, and Brooklyn Nets games. The Staples Center, home of the Lakers and Clippers, was the first NBA arena to feature LED lighting. They estimate an energy savings of nearly $300,000 per year.

“It’s an NBA change in their rules,” Fuson said. “When we built this building, there was a different rule than there is today as it relates to what the lighting can be in the bowl itself.

“From the beginning, when we moved in here in 1999, we had to light the bowl with more candlelight. That’s changed over the years. The Lakers were one of the first to go to it, and Brooklyn did as well. So when we changed the light, we were able to do that as well.”

LEDs, the left row of lights, are used during game action.

The NBA also had to approve the specific lighting system. League representatives and consultants visited to evaluate the on-court lighting. Also, a certain number of rows in the lower-level must be lit, depending on the type of lights used.

“It’s really not a new thing, it was just a change in the rules that allowed us to do that.”

Game 1 with the new lights went off without a hitch. They turned on the house lights during timeouts to engage with the fans and when the Pacemates performed, select lights focused on them.

“I like it a lot,” Fuson said. “I’ve been around 34 years so I saw it a lot at Market Square Arena and I’ve seen a lot of arenas with different kind of lighting. It takes some time to get used to, there’s no question about it. Some people will like it, some people won’t.”

A new court design and lighting system alters the look of the Pacers’ home games.

The team may still tinker with lighting in the club and balcony levels to ensure that fans have a safe and enjoyable experience.

The lighting upgrades were all new to the players, too.

They moved into and held training camp at their beautiful, brand new 130,000-square-foot practice facility, the St. Vincent Center, across the street. They then played just one home preseason game but didn’t hold morning shootaround, either, because they played the previous night in Detroit.

So it’s not surprising that they are still getting used to it.

“I don’t know yet,” said Myles Turner, who’s entering his third season. “This is my first time shooting over here, really doing anything over here in a while. I liked the lighting a little bit better last year, but I feel like it’ll grow on me. It just takes some getting used to. It’s kind of like that center stage kind of feel.”

As for Lance Stephenson, we know that he feeds off the crowd and enjoys the bright lights.

“It’s all right,” he said, hesitating. “I like the bright lights. I like feeling like everybody’s involved. I feel like [now] it’s just on us. We’re going to get used to it.”

It has a big stage, big game feel to it.

The Pacers open the 2017-18 regular season on Wednesday, Oct. 18 against Brooklyn.

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