Quinnipiac installs energy-efficient LEDs at M&T Bank Arena

Cat Murphy, Staff Writer

The LED lighting system is cost and energy efficient, but has raised some concerns about accessibility for those with epilepsy. (Casey Wiederhold)

An LED lighting system was installed at the M&T Bank Arena on Quinnipiac University’s York Hill Campus over the summer to lower the facility’s operating costs, Vice President for Facilities and Capital Planning Sal Filardi wrote in an email to the Chronicle on Nov. 14. 

“We replaced (the old lighting system) with a state-of-the-art LED system that provides a host of additional programming opportunities as well as uses less energy,” Filardi wrote. 

Filardi said Quinnipiac officials opted in the fall of 2021 to renovate the arena’s original lighting system, which was installed in 2006, to reduce the facility’s energy usage. 

The indoor sports facility, which the university rebranded in September as the M&T Bank Arena amid the bank’s merger with People’s United Bank, previously utilized a lighting system that “required significantly more electricity to power and run,” than an LED system, wrote Eric Grgurich, executive director of the M&T Bank Arena, in an email to the Chronicle on Nov. 14. 

The arena’s new lighting system is expected to reduce the facility’s annual energy costs by approximately $65,000, Filardi said. He also said the longevity of the new LED lighting system is expected to lower future maintenance costs. 

“LED lights last longer than the lighting they replaced, so maintenance costs over time are also less,” Filardi wrote. “Getting a lift on the ice to replace a bulb is difficult and costly, so replacing them less often is a major benefit.” 

Construction on the new LED lighting system began toward the end of the spring 2022 semester, Filardi said. 

The new lighting system took just over six weeks to install in the 185,000-square-foot indoor facility, with each of the facility’s two sports arenas requiring roughly three-and-a-half weeks of construction, Grgurich wrote. 

Filardi explained that Quinnipiac bundled the York Hill lighting initiative with “several other energy savings projects” to maximize the utility rebate the university received. 

The cost of Quinnipiac’s various undertakings totaled approximately $1.1 million, Filardi said. However, utility rebates reduced the university’s final bill by more than half. 

“The rebate we received from our local utilities was approximately $650K,” Filardi wrote. “We essentially got ($1.1M) worth of upgrades for $450K.” 

The arena’s new LED lighting system was fully operational for the start of the 2022-2023 NCAA Division I ice hockey and basketball seasons, which began in early October and early November, respectively. 

The versatility of the LED system has allowed the pregame and postgame presentations at Bobcat basketball and ice hockey games to feature colorful light programming, according to John Marquardt, superintendent of mechanical services on the York Hill Campus. 

“The project will not only save QU dollars in the future on energy savings and maintenance costs,” Marquardt wrote in an email to the Chronicle on Nov. 8. “It brings excitement with colored schemes and light shows that play along to music.” 

However, some students who have attended games at M&T Bank Arena this semester said the new light programming did not impact their viewing experience. 

“If I’m being completely honest, I didn’t really pay attention to the lights,” wrote Ashley Mudd, a sophomore occupational therapy major, in a statement to the Chronicle on Nov. 14. “The lights, I am sure, (add) an element of excitement and pretty looks, but that’s something that doesn’t matter too much to me.” 

Ari Hyman, a senior political science major, said she enjoyed the light shows at hockey games but questioned their necessity. 

“The new lights at the (M&T Bank Arena) are fun, but I don’t find them necessary,” Hyman said. “There are many other things that money can be used for.” 

Some students also voiced concerns about the accessibility of the light shows, which feature strobe lighting. 

“I think that these are a really cool opportunity to attract more people to our arena and add some more dimension,” wrote Ephemia Nicolakis, a junior 3+1 public relations and graphic and interactive design double major, in a statement to the Chronicle on Nov. 14. “At the same time, it is a little frustrating to see us add on something that could make our games in the arena more inaccessible.” 

According to the Epilepsy Foundation, approximately 3% of people with epilepsy, a neurologic disorder that causes recurrent seizures, have photosensitive epilepsy. Exposure to “flashing lights at certain intensities” can trigger seizures in people with photosensitive epilepsy, according to the Epilepsy Foundation. 

“Growing up with my sister, who has epilepsy, this matter hits super close to home,” Nicolakis wrote. “Having lights that are potentially going to strobe before, during, or after a game means that people, specifically those with photosensitive epilepsy, cannot attend or enjoy games without the fear of having a seizure or risking their health.” 

The M&T Bank Arena issues a public announcement prior to games to inform fans who may be sensitive to flashing lights that the pregame and postgame presentations feature strobe lighting, Grgurich said. 

“I do think it would be great to see Quinnipiac provide opportunities for the disabled community to cheer us on by hosting strobe-free games,” Nicolakis wrote.