Dartmouth College’s Rupert Thompson Arena

Dartmouth College’s Rupert Thompson Arena has the reputation as one of the toughest arenas for visiting teams in all of college hockey. Home to Big Green men’s and women’s hockey teams, Thompson Arena overflows with fans on game nights, with seating for 3,500 and standing room for another 1,000—all encircling the Arena’s 85-foot by 200-foot ice sheet.
Dartmouth NCAA hockey games are televised, with the Arena also playing host to collegiate figure skating and youth hockey camps.
“The Dartmouth community loves hockey—it’s what we do during the cold days and long nights in New Hampshire,” said Laura Black, P.E., Electrical Engineer, Facilities Operations & Management, Dartmouth College. “Dartmouth hockey teams are always top notch. Many players have competed in the Olympics and others have gone on to play professional level hockey.”
Lighting replaced to reduce energy
Construction on Thompson Arena began in 1973, with the Dartmouth men’s team playing the Arena’s first game in November, 1975, skating against the United States Olympic Team to a 3-3 tie. Italian architect-engineer Pier Luigi Nervi, who gained international fame for his technical ingenuity and dramatic design of large-span structures, designed the Arena, which was originally lit with Holophane Prismpack® luminaries using 1,000-watt metal halide lamps.
The Prismpack fixtures were replaced as part of Dartmouth’s ongoing quest to reduce its energy footprint—and to decrease the maintenance required for the aging fixtures, wiring and ballasts. The replacement was paid for by the college’s reserve funding for capital improvements, with the lighting replacement performed at the same time the college initiated the larger project of replacing the Arena’s chiller and HVAC unit.
The original Prismpack luminaires were mounted inside can-type chandeliers installed in clusters of four, with 16 clusters spaced 40 to 44 feet apart and mounted at 42 feet. While designing the lighting upgrade, the college hoped to re-use the chandeliers and sought fixtures that would fit within the cans—although there was significant pressure from the fluorescent design community to consider T5HO lighting.
Highly functional illumination
The Prismpack V luminaires provide a minimal amount of uplight (1.1 percent) to illuminate the vaulted concrete ceiling, which includes 1,024 triangular sections, each weighing one ton. Every web within the white painted ceiling includes a pocket containing acoustic pads.
“This slight amount of uplight creates aesthetic appeal—especially since the ceiling is free of conduit and equipment, which are installed along the ribs,” Black said. Initial illumination levels are 161 footcandles with maximum to minimum uniformity of 1.6:1.
The luminaires incorporate an extra low brightness (ELB) reflector to enhance visual comfort for spectators. All fixtures include a wire guard to protect the units from hockey pucks that sometimes pop straight into the air.
Each chandelier cluster includes a supplemental, dimmable incandescent fixture the Arena uses during pre-game festivities. The Prismpack V fixtures are turned off during the 5-minute flag presentation and the Arena relies on the supplemental luminaires as the only ambient light source. The incandescent fixtures switch off when the Prismpack units re-ignite.
Thompson Arena is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week—only closing twice a year to maintain the ice. The Prismpack luminaires are switched on and off via a lighting control system that individually controls each luminaire in the chandelier clusters.

The lighting system provides 25, 50, 75 and 100 percent output, depending on how the Arena is being used. Fixtures operate at 100 percent during NCAA games and 75 percent during hockey practices and figure skating. They typically operate at 25 to 50 percent output while crews maintain the ice.
“The lighting is beautiful and highly functional without creating any shadows,” Black said. “The color rendering is acceptable and the illumination levels both horizontal and vertical are excellent. The new 875w lamps being used are rated for 26,000 hours versus the 15,000 hour rating of the previous 1000W lamps.
“No news is good news in this type of facility. We know the lighting is effective because we have no complaints from the coaches. If there was a problem, we’d be the first to hear.”
Dartmouth facility electricians will maintain the Prismpack fixtures—although no schedule has been established. The college is presently installing Holophane luminaires in other campus facilities.

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