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American Airlines Center

 Dallas, TX  Outdoor lighting

American Airlines Center management aimed to offer an improved lighting experience for fans as they head in and out of the arena. Cree® IG Series lighting, the chandelier of parking structures, delivered.


When Leroy Juel, the American Airlines Center’s master electrician, was offered the opportunity to remedy what he called “a maintenance nightmare of high-pressure sodium light fixtures,” he jumped at the chance.

Juel was given the go-ahead to upgrade the lighting in two garages – one across the street from the center and one beneath it – and a loading dock area, and he went shopping for the best available lighting solution at the right price.

The American Airlines Center, located in the Victory Park neighborhood, near downtown Dallas, has been setting the precedent for sporting and live entertainment events since opening in 2001.

Designed by famed architect David M. Schwarz and Dallas-based HKS, Inc., the arena features a façade of brick, granite and limestone, encouraging the warm feeling of returning home.

With the visitor’s experience in mind, Juel was looking for parking structure lighting solution that would accentuate that sensation with inviting, more consistent light, while enhancing security. His further objective was to reduce energy consumption and cost while remedying his maintenance nightmare.

The current system included 150-watt high-pressure sodium and 175-watt metal halide fixtures. In addition to the unpredictable maintenance cycle, the overall appearance of the aged fixtures left something to be desired. Color shifting within the fixtures was very apparent and on full display for all visitors to see. Not to mention, illumination levels were insufficient in areas as old technology approached the end of life causing a heightened safety concern.

Juel investigated several options – all of which were LED, as this technology is clearly the way to go. He consulted with Dameon Harrison of the Facilities Solutions Group. Harrison advised that for performance and savings, Cree was the right choice.

Juel soon concurred. “Cree came on board,” he says, “and they impressed me the most.”


The first step was to conduct a 90-day installation trial of four Cree® IG LED Parking Structure luminaires.

“Seeing them installed, sold him right then and there,” Harrison says. “He easily saw the improvement.” The IG Series features Cree WaveMax® Technology, offering an unparalleled lighting experience by distributing visually comfortable light with exceptional uniformity, high efficiency, precise control and design appeal.

Parking structures with traditional HID and HPS luminaires can be dark caverns, unevenly lit with deep shadows in corners and between cars. WaveMax® Technology is a breakthrough in the execution of waveguide technology that challenges industry-standard assumptions of how light is delivered. The IG Series banishes the shadows by distributing light below the fixture and around the perimeter to create well-lit, welcoming spaces. About six percent of the illumination is aimed at the ceiling to prevent the cave effect.

Additionally, Juel presented a cost-savings analysis to upper management – which included rebates from their electric provider – and the deal was done.

The result for the American Airlines Center is exceptional energy efficiency and rapid payback with a superior visual experience.

Though Juel originally thought he would need to put in more fixtures than were previously installed, the flexibility of the IG Series – allowing for adjustments to be made to mounting heights – facilitated a one-to-one replacement, while illuminating areas that had been poorly lit.

Many of the fixtures are now pendant mounted, allowing the luminaires to be moved out of the “beam pocket” for even greater illumination coverage.

The American Airlines Center team installed 782 IG fixtures in four weeks. Juel says it all went “perfectly. I had no issues. We put them up, and they all fired up. We’re batting a thousand.”


Harrison says that with the previous lighting, there was considerable light degradation after about 100 hours. “It just slowly died out,” he says. “And you’d get all that color shifting; you had varying colors throughout. Nothing was consistent.

“That’s not an issue with the LEDs.”

The sensor option on the IG Series was another selling point. Programmable motion controls increase savings and offer a simple way to customize settings depending on activity.

Juel says the new lighting has been an especially big hit with the broadcast crews.

“Broadcast trucks come into the loading dock area to set up, and they’ve been praising how the light looks versus what we had before,” he says. The crews stage from that area, “and it really helps them get the job done.”

As for his bosses, “Our executive management really loves the fact that visitors’ first impression is a very positive one,” Juel says. “From the executive vice presidents to the GM to the operations manager, they just love not only the money we’re saving but the fact that the light is so much crisper, and that it gives people a better sense of security.”

Across the board, “everybody is happy,” he attests, “with the enhanced first impression — we’re now greeting guests with better light.”

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