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Chelsea Piers

Prismatic fixtures meet unique lighting
needs at Chelsea Piers Sports Center

Chelsea Piers originally had a long history as a steamship terminal playing host to some of the world's most elite luxury liners. Designed by Warren and Wetmore—who also designed New York City's Grand Central Terminal—Chelsea Piers was completed in 1910. There were nine piers originally, running from 12th to 23rd Streets. Each pier was the size of a 90-story skyscraper laid on its side. They stretched along Manhattan's Chelsea waterfront, and were soon dubbed by The New York Times as the "most extensive and complete steamship terminal in the country."

During World Wars I and II, the Chelsea Piers were used as a departure site for U.S. troops. But after the war, and the coming of jet air travel, the terminal—like much of Manhattan's waterfront—eroded into a neglected war time relic. During the late 1970s, after the last ocean liner to dock at the pier set sail, the facility was utilized as a warehouse and parking garage for impounded vehicles.

It was in 1994—two decades after interest in redeveloping the waterfront for recreation purposes was first voiced—that construction of the 30-acre Chelsea Piers Sports & Entertainment Complex began. The facility is built on the four remaining 900-foot piers that extend into the Hudson River, and offers sports enthusiasts about any type of year-round activity imaginable—from ice skating and gymnastics to rock climbing, swimming, lacrosse and golf.

The variety of activities offered in each sports venue presented a unique challenge as far as the lighting was concerned. In the twin-rink masonry and glass Sky Rink on Pier 61, for example, different levels of illumination were needed for collegiate hockey league competition, figure skating, public skating, and the hockey camps held there each year. The situation was complicated further by the amount of natural light coming in through numerous glass windows, the humidity levels and dramatic temperature swings.

The lighting system chosen for Sky Rink is Holophane Prismalume® fixtures with wire guards and 400-watt metal halide lamps. Units are mounted on steel support beams at 16 feet, spaced on a 15' x 20' grid. Because the facility has a hipped roof, some of the fixtures are mounted as high as 30 feet above the floor. The Prismalume units provide 10 percent uplight to reflect off the metal ribbed ceiling. Illumination levels are 75 footcandles maintained.

"When we were considering various lighting systems, we knew the fixtures had to be able to withstand the low temperature and humidity fluctuations that occur within the rink," said Mike Braito, general manager of property management, Chelsea Piers. "The temperature may be 45 degrees, then increase to 60 degrees, then decrease back to 45 degrees. Humidity levels range from 40 to 60 percent."

To provide the illumination levels required for the various events held in the facility (i.e. 80 percent for hockey camp, 100 percent for collegiate level competition), fixtures are controlled by a dimming system. An Automatic Energy Reduction System (AERS) from Holophane was also installed to switch fixtures to pre-selected lower output levels depending on the space use or available daylight.

The Prismalume fixtures are set up in zones and designed with a modified ballast that operates the lamps at different input wattages. On bright, sunny days, lighting fixtures may be turned off entirely.

Prismalume fixtures are also installed in the 80,000-square-foot Chelsea Piers Field House and the 150,000-square-foot Sports Center. Considered Manhattan's premier facility for gymnastics, team sports and league play, the Field House is comprised of two basketball courts, two artificial-turf playing fields for soccer and lacrosse, four batting cages, a climbing wall, a martial arts mezzanine, dance studios, and the largest gymnastics training center in New York City.

Lighting fixtures in both the Sports Center and Field House utilize 400-watt metal halide lamps. Mounting height is 16 feet, with fixtures spaced in a 15' x 20' grid. Illumination levels are the same as in the Sky Rink at 75 footcandles maintained.

The Sports Center includes a 1/4-mile indoor running track, a 200-meter banked competition track, three basketball/volleyball courts, and an indoor sand volleyball court. The facility also boasts one of the largest climbing walls in the country, plus a six-lane, 25-yard swimming pool.

"When we first began the process of selecting the lighting system for the various venues, we conducted a study that showed that twice as many fixtures would have been required if we would have installed a fluorescent system. The Prismalume system is a cost efficient solution that delivers the light levels needed," said Steve Margulies, president of Cosentini Lighting Design, New York City.

The lighting system was efficient enough to earn Chelsea Piers a significant rebate from the local utility.


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