SBJ/October 22-28, 2012/Franchises

Canadiens shed new light on Bell Centre

When the NHL returns to action, Montreal Canadiens players will be seen in a new light. The team and the Bell Centre, the club’s 16-year-old arena, have invested more than $700,000 in a new lighting system.

Lidlum Sport, a system created by Quebec-based LED Innovation Design, was set to debut with the Canadiens’ scheduled home opener two weeks ago, but the NHL lockout altered the plan. Now, the system will be experienced in-game for the first time on Nov. 9, for an American Hockey League game featuring the Hamilton Bulldogs, the Canadiens’ top minor league affiliate.

Bell Centre’s new lighting system, created by LED Innovation Design, cost more than $700,000.
Photo by: MONTREAL CANADIENS
The team-owned and operated Bell Centre had been using metal halide lighting, dating to its opening in 1996. That’s the system most arenas built in those years installed. Over time though, other arenas changed to more-modern systems. Lighting at the Bell Centre became obsolete. When the lights were dimmed, as NHL arenas commonly do during intermissions, it would take four to five minutes to return to full power. There were significant shadows on the ice, and broadcasters were dissatisfied by how the lighting translated to the screen in high-definition. Lamps were burning out every six months. Replacement hardware was getting harder to source.

“We weren’t meeting the standards we’ve always had to provide our fans with the best,” said Kevin Gilmore, Canadiens executive vice president and chief operating officer. “It was time for a change.”

In May, Gilmore and Alain Gauthier, the Bell Centre’s general manager of facility operations, met with Jean-Louis Legault, the former president of Daktronics Canada and now an executive with LED Innovation Design. After being unsuccessful in their search to find effective replacement lamps, Gilmore and Gauthier were intrigued by LED Innovation Design’s willingness to create a system to address their game presentation and broadcasting needs.

The new system has many benefits. The intensity in foot-candle is 1,800 lux, up from 900 lux, and eliminates shadows. The Lidlum Sport product consumes 65 percent less electricity than the metal halide system, and each of the new system’s light fixtures is expected to last for 54,000 hours as opposed to 3,000 hours in the old system.

The Canadiens estimate that payback from having lower operating and maintenance costs will be seen within two to three years. Power in the arena bowl now can be at full peak immediately. The system also runs cooler, improving the quality of the ice surface.

Upon installation of the system, Gilmore and Gauthier approved a test run, in part to draw feedback from television networks. The Canadiens invited staffers from Le Groupe Numérique, the broadcast technology consultants for CBC and RDS, to visit the arena in late September.

“The difference in the coverage of the ice, compared to what the Bell Centre had the last few years, is amazing,” said René Villeneuve, an associate for Le Group Numérique. “We were really pleased.”

The Canadiens have been so satisfied by Lidlum Sport that the club sent an email to the league’s other 29 teams extolling the system’s merits. Dan Craig, the NHL’s senior director of facility operations, also inspected the lighting. “There were no hot spots on the ice and there were no dull spots,” Craig said. “You can put your hand on any of the lights an hour after they are turned on and you won’t feel any heat.”

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