Making John Paul Jones Arena a Brighter Place

Better For Our Athletes & The Environment

February 22, 2016 • Sakib Ahmed

Mens Practice Gym at JPJ

The tremendous success of the University of Virginia’s two basketball teams is well-known, but their success on the main court at John Paul Jones Arena (JPJ) is determined by what is just a few hundred feet from it - the two practice gyms.

LED Lights in JPJ

In a typical season, the teams spend well over 3,000 hours in the gyms, training and refining their game. To give these athletes an even better experience, administrators at JPJ partnered with the Office for Sustainability to convert the lighting in the gym to highly-efficient, Cree high-bay LED (light-emitting diode) fixtures, reducing energy consumption, providing brighter lighting, and curbing maintenance costs.

“The original fixtures were plagued with premature lamp and ballast failures, and provided inconsistent light levels throughout the gyms,” said Robert Wheeler, Director of Operations for John Paul Jones Arena.

For the athletes, this meant a noisier gym due to ballast hum and longer wait times after flipping the switch.

The gym is an important space for athletes such as Caid Kirven, #24, a forward who can be found practicing well into the night. According to Kirven, the gym is not only a space for players to bond as a team, but also where they come to be alone and think.

Hear Kirven explain the significance of the gym and his thoughts on the intersection between sustainability and basketball in the video below.

The Office for Sustainability, through its Delta Force program, provided the upfront capital for updating fixtures. Projects such as these contribute to making progress toward UVA’s greenhouse gas emissions goal to reduce emissions 25% below 2009 levels by 2025.

Though the scale of the project was small, the complexities were not. First, the light fixtures are over thirty feet above the floor and due to the busy events schedule of the arena, work had to be completed quickly. The Facilities team used a motorized scissor lift to hoist the lights into place, knowing that errors could cost them valuable time. There were forty-eight 400 watt light fixtures in each gym that consumed 57,600 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year. To put that into perspective, the average U.S. household consumes over 10,000 kWh annually. The new LED fixtures are 240 watt and 160 watts each, which consume 30,720 kWh per year - a 46% reduction. The LEDs are completely silent and come with a 10 year warranty and zero maintenance costs.

The Associate Head Coach of the Women’s Basketball team, Kim McNeill, praised the LED lights for their comparable color and light quality to those on the main court. She also felt that the lights present a bigger opportunity for her athletes. “When we are recruiting for the team there are two things that we look for – academics and also their commitment to the game and making themselves better. It’s great that the girls can come in and turn the lights on, and when they leave, turn them off - which is a great opportunity for us to help conserve energy here at the University,” McNeill said.

Hear McNeill with athlete Deborah Ferguson (’19), answer questions about the practice gym and the role of sustainability in basketball in the video below.

Lighting projects are significant opportunities for the University because they have a quick return on investment and visibly improve a space. The momentum from this project will allow JPJ to further improve the building, and to provide a sustainable and delightful experience for athletics, fans, and visitors.

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