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As the North Carolina football team heads into a highly anticipated season, Kenan Stadium will be more awash in Carolina Blue than ever before — thanks to a newly upgraded stadium lighting system.

More than 200 new LED game lights and moving spotlights were installed throughout the stadium over the summer. This will allow for brighter lighting during night games, as well as specialized light shows during the season.

Carmichael Arena — home to the gymnastics, volleyball, wrestling and women’s basketball teams — also received upgraded LED lighting and new video boards. 

“Kenan Stadium and Carmichael Arena will look much better on TV,” Rick Steinbacher, senior associate athletic director, said. “It costs a lot less to operate. [The lights] are more beneficial for the environment. And because they're LED lights, they can do a lot of things that the older halogen lights couldn't do.”

Steinbacher also said this type of LED lighting is the new standard for stadium environments. Duke University's Wallace Wade Stadium switched to LED lighting in 2016, and N.C. State University followed suit last year.

It was time for a similar upgrade on UNC's campus. 

“The lights that we had were in danger of no longer working anymore,” Steinbacher said.

These stadium updates come at a time when the University continues to face backlash over funding priorities because of its extensive maintenance backlog.

However, funds for the Kenan Stadium lights came from an athletics-specific source.

A fund directed toward the stadium’s maintenance and upgrades, alongside additional money from the UNC Athletics operating budget, provided the $1.3 million for the lighting project.

The Carmichael Arena project was funded by an alternate source — the Champion Sustainability Fund, a recent partnership between Champion and Sustainable Carolina that provides investments for energy efficiency projects on campus.

The Carmichael lights are the first completed project to come out of this partnership.

UNC sustainability analyst Melanie Elliott, who manages the Champion Sustainability Fund, said the University has been working to install more LED lighting in buildings across campus for more than a decade. 

“I definitely think that LEDs are worth pursuing, simply for the fact that they have that high rate of return,” Elliott said. “It's going to pay back in energy savings in five years or less, and very few energy efficiency projects will do that.”

In addition to improving television visibility and conserving energy, the new LED lights are expected to elevate the overall game day experience. Elliott also noted that increased visibility from the brighter LED game lights can lead to better performance from the players.

Steinbacher said a certain level of production has become more of an expectation for visitors and fans at games throughout college sports, especially football.

The LED lights can project different colors and shapes – like the Jordan brand logo – onto the field to produce light shows. 

UNC senior Lydia Waddell, co-chair of Carolina Fever, said the new lighting could heighten the game day experience — especially at special parts of the games like the fourth quarter hype videos. 

“I mean, personally, I would love it,” Waddell said. “I am all about football. I think the lights that they are doing — we saw the other day. They look great.”

The new lights at Kenan Stadium made their debut this past Saturday at a pep rally during UNC Weeks of Welcome.

UNC fans and students alike will have the chance to see the lights for themselves as the Tar Heels take the field for their first home game against Appalachian State on Sept. 9.

@hannahgracerose I @APLancaster_

@universitydth | @dthsports 

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