The now-infamous 34-minute blackout during last Sunday's Super Bowl XLVII could be explained in part for how the lighting at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome works, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Most major sports stadiums use high intensity discharge (HID) lamps as primary lighting for large, outdoor events. These lights, while energy efficient, have a much higher wattage than similar types of lights that are used to illuminate billboards, parks, highways, parking facilities and other outdoor installations.
This means HID lamps take longer to warm up once they are turned off, according to the EIA. It was this warm-up period that could have contributed to the long period of darkness millions of TV viewers watched during the big game.
The causes behind the power disruption that caused the stadium to darken in the first place are still under investigation, however. Entergy, the utility that serves New Orleans and the Superdome, has said that power was flowing continuously to the stadium.
Property managers use HID lamps in many applications where large areas need lots of light — factories, stadiums, warehouses, etc. On a lumens-per-watt basis, HID lamps are more energy efficient than other technologies, such as LED, incandescent or halogen lamps.
The main disadvantage of HID lights is the amount of time they take to reach full brightness. The Superdome uses metal halide lighting, which is a type of HID technology, to illuminate outdoor events after dark. According to the EIA, the power disruption that knocked out the lights in the Superdome only lasted a few minutes, but turning the lights back on afterwards took much longer because of how the lights work.