Important Terms

Metal Halide Lamps
The most common type used for sports lighting. Metal halide lamps deliver a white light output that illuminates well, is controllable, and reduces glare, all at a reasonable cost.

Sport Court offers metal halide fixtures in 400w and 1000w configurations, as shown below:

Light Emitting Diode (LED) Arrays
LEDs are rapidly gaining popularity in a variety of lighting applications because of their long life, consistent and clear light levels, low operating costs, and years of service with little to no illumination loss. LEDs are ‘instant-on’ light sources which work well with controls such as dimmers or motion sensors, and deliver direct light to a targeted area better than metal halides and other lighting options.

We have several options available in LED systems, and will be evaluating additional products as they become available:


Cree Edge 204W LED

Metal Halide vs. LED
LED lighting systems are the fastest-growing segment of the industry, with new options and innovations being added to the field almost daily. Sport Court will attempt to stay abreast of these changes, but with so many competing providers, will review and consider new providers every few months, so as not to constantly be changing the product offering. It seems likely that the use of LEDs will become more widespread in our world, because of several key advantages:

  • Operating costs of these lights are very low, compared to metal halides, fluorescents, and virtually any other popular types of lighting systems
  • They maintain their light output longer than most traditional lighting
  • Can deliver higher lumen output from lower wattages
  • Better color quality and consistency over time
  • Much longer lifespan, as much as 125,000 operating hours for some types
  • Little to no ongoing maintenance costs for replacement bulbs and ballasts
  • Instant On/Off and Quiet Operation (no ballast hum)

However, when considering LEDs for use on a backyard court, those advantages may be outweighed by the fact that the fixtures are generally costlier than comparable metal halides, and because most residential backyard lights will never be used enough to take full advantage of the lower operating costs and longer lifespan of the fixtures.


Lighting Configurations for Popular Court Sizes  

Although Sport Court customizes each court (creating an unlimited number of possible sizes), most backyard courts fit within a few common sizes. For the purposes of setting a lighting scheme for your court, these will provide some guidelines:

Small Shooting Courts (20’x20’ to 30’x46’)
In many areas of the country, smaller lot sizes mean less available space for amenities outside the house. As a result, court sizes can often be as small as 15’x20’, just slightly larger than a typical basketball key. Lighting for such small courts can be accomplished even with off-the-shelf residential lighting systems, but from our product line, we recommend the following options: 

Option 1 Option 2 Option 3

Metal Halide 400w
1 Pole, 1 Fixture 

LED 180w Shoebox
1 Pole, 1 Fixture 
LED 148w Shoebox
1 Pole, 1 Fixture 


Multi-Sport Courts (30’x50’ – 35’x65’)
This has traditionally been a very popular sized court, due to its versatility in allowing a variety of sports to be played. Recommendations for lighting include: 

Option 1 Option 2 Option 3 Option 4 Option 5
MH 400w 
1 Pole, 2 Fixtures
LED 180w SB 
1 Pole, 2 Fixtures
MH 1000w 
1 Pole, 1 Fixture
LED 296w SB
1 Pole, 1 Fixture
LED 120 Edge
1 Pole, 1 Fixture


Full-Size Basketball Courts (40’x80’ – 90’x54’)
This court layout is for a regulation full-court basketball set-up, including a few feet along each sideline and baseline for out-of-bounds. Lighting options include: 

Option 1 Option 2 Option 3 Option 4 Option 5
MH 1000w 
2 Poles, 4 Fixtures
LED 296w SB 
2 Poles, 4 Fixtures
MH 1000w 
4 Poles, 4 Fixtures
LED 296w SB 
4 Poles, 4 Fixtures
LED 240 Edge
1 Pole, 1 Fixture


Tennis Courts (100’x50’ - 120’x60’) 
This court layout is for a regulation (or smaller) tennis court, and includes lighting options ranging from recreational tennis, up to competition-level lighting schemes, as follows:

Option 1 Option 2 Option 3 Option 4 Option 5
MH 1000w 
4 Poles, 4 Fixtures
LED 296w SB 
4 Poles, 4 Fixtures
MH 1000w 
6 Poles, 6 Fixtures
LED 296w SB 
6 Poles, 6 Fixtures
LED 240 Edge
1 Pole, 2 Fixtures


A few additional things to keep in mind:

  • When only one pole is recommended, it generally should be mounted directly across from the basketball standard halfway down the ‘long side’ of the court. This would generally apply to the shooting courts and the multi-sport courts.
  • With the larger courts, if only one or two poles are recommended, the lighting scheme is designed for recreational play, and might result in some ‘darker corners’. While these lighting configurations might serve for some customers, we would recommend them mostly as a way to keep the budget in check, and customers should be informed of their limitations.
  • Most of the recommendations on the two larger courts are for 4 – 6 poles, and those should be split evenly along each of the long sides of the courts. With 4 poles, you would generally site them at about the free-throw line (basketball) or service box (tennis) on the courts, and with 6 poles, you’d start with one on each side of center court, then place another at each ‘quarter-court’ for most consistent illumination.
  • Lighting is discretional and higher wattages may be recommended based on desired light levels and application limitations.

Sports Lighting Considerations  

The keys to effective residential outdoor sports lighting are simple:

  • Create a comfortable environment where the athlete can play his/her chosen sport without thinking about the lighting.
  • Ensure enough illumination that the action of other athletes, the flight of the ball, and the court parameters are all clear and easy to see.
  • Provide a uniform diffusion of light, eliminate blind spots or shadows, and minimize glare that can affect the athlete’s performance and comfort.
  • Control the light pattern to avoid light spillage into neighboring yards.

Ball Visibility  
One of the primary objectives of effective sports lighting is to adequately light the path of the ball as it is played. In games like basketball or volleyball—with a larger ball and slower movement—this is more easily accomplished, requiring less overall illumination and fewer light sources (typically defined/limited by the placement of the poles). By contrast, tennis, paddle tennis, badminton, and similar sports have smaller objects moving at much higher speeds. For these sports, lighting the flight path of the ball is the most important consideration. This usually requires more light poles and fixtures, or luminaires (as many as eight for a typical tennis court!).  

Backyard Game Courts  
For most backyard sports lighting, a balance must be struck between two competing priorities: 

  • Provide enough illumination for a safe, enjoyable experience for the athlete.
  • Control the light pattern to avoid spillage into neighboring yards

For most backyard (recreational) settings, an average foot-candle rating in the high 30’s to low 40’s is sufficient. When planning light system installations, consider the number and positioning of light poles, the number of luminaires/LED arrays per pole, and the light output of the lamps to achieve the illumination goal.  

Considerations for Tennis Courts  
Lighting requirements for tennis courts vary widely. A professional or club/tournament setting may require an average foot-candle rating anywhere from the low 70’s to over 100. A typical pole configuration might be 3 – 4 poles per side, spaced evenly and beginning 15’ to 20’ inside each baseline. 

If using Metal Halide systems, 1000w luminaires are recommended, although it may be possible to use double 400w fixtures on each pole. For the recreational/backyard tennis player (especially on courts under regulation size, i.e. anything smaller than 120’ x 60’), it is possible to achieve sufficient lighting with as few as 6 poles using single 1000w luminaires. This set-up, with poles at 25’ inside each baseline and one at center court, will typically deliver higher illumination and a foot-candle rating range up to the mid-50’s. Most backyard/recreational tennis players will find this lighting scheme more than adequate for their needs.  

On multi-court facilities, poles installed between courts may use two 1000w luminaires aimed in opposite directions, thus reducing the number of poles required. Larger multi-court installations should be evaluated by a photometric expert to ensure adequate coverage. 


Other Considerations

Most metal halides and LEDs can be wired at variable voltage levels, usually from 120 to 277v. It is usually advisable to wire lights at the highest available voltage, to reduce power consumption over time. 

All questions regarding field installation and wiring should be deferred to a licensed electrician with knowledge of local and national electrical codes.  


Safety and Service for Our CourtBuilders & Customers                                                   

Our goal is to provide Light Systems that can be easily and quickly assembled in the field, with enough variation that you can find a system to fit almost any court application. We hope this guide will be helpful to our CourtBuilders and our customers in creating solutions that meet all their lighting needs.  


Other Terms to Know

Quartz Halogen Lamps 
The traditional “floodlight,” not typically used for sports lighting except in older stadiums/arenas where light spillage is not a consideration. This lamp usually requires 240 volts for operation and very high mounting heights to avoid glare.  

A traditional lighting fixture, consisting of the lamp or LED array, reflector or optic (to direct the light output), housing, and ballast or driver. “Sharp Cut-Off” luminaires are designed to provide precise light control, delivering excellent illumination while controlling light spill/pollution. These fixtures can also be mounted at lower heights, making them an excellent choice for residential installations.  

The unit of illumination when using the foot as a measure of distance. (The metric equivalent is called a ‘lux’.) Foot-candles are typically measured (using a light meter) at a height of 3’ above the court surface. 

The amount of light output from a lamp (bulb) or other source. Over time and use, light output from a lamp will decrease at a predictable rate, so initial light levels may be as much as 25% - 30% higher when the lamp is new. LEDs typically retain a greater percentage of their light output for a longer period of time. 

Average Illumination  
The average light levels for a specific area. Photometric diagrams typically illustrate light values over a grid of points on the court (either assumed from a layout or actually measured on a lighted court) from which an average illumination for the entire grid can be calculated. 




Metal Halide lamps may start to display a blackening at the ends of the arc tube as they approach the end of their life. You may also experience broken lamps and components or deposits inside the outer glass bulb. The easiest method of troubleshooting a burned-out lamp is to try a known good lamp in the fixture. You should also check power switches, circuit breakers, and fuses. If nothing obvious presents itself, Sport Court recommends the assistance of a licensed electrician. 

Color shift indicates underlying issues. As the lamp ages, it will first lose brightness and then turn pink in color as shown below. This occurs when the lamp gasses are significantly depleted and the lamp needs to be replaced. 

Green or blue color light indicates incorrect current reaching the lamp and is caused from either a bad capacitor or ballast. 

A humming sound indicates that too high of an amp load was delivered to the fixture and the varnish coating of copper windings melted. Eventually all the varnish will melt causes complete failure of the ballasts. The amperage delivered will need to be corrected and the ballast replaced. 

When the light takes a long time to come on, or cycles off and on, this indicates a ballast failure. Although a new bulb will seem to fix the issue immediately, the new bulb will only work normally for a short time. Replace the ballast, capacitor, and bulb to fix the issue permanently. 

Bulbs can vary in brightness depending on age, brand, and color rating. Our standard bulbs have a color temperature of 4000K, there are some versions available at 3000K which will be slightly yellow in color. When one bulb goes out on a double light system, it is better to replace both bulbs at the same time because older bulbs require a higher amp load. LED Shoeboxes are standard 5700K, but can be custom ordered depending on quantity needed. 

400W bulbs prior to 2010 used Probe Start bulbs, current systems after 2010 use Pulse start bulbs. 


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