LED Natatorium lighting: cost, design and funding (2023)

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LED Natatorium lighting: cost, design and funding (1)

Thinking about installing new LED lighting for your natatorium or retrofitting your existing lighting system with LEDs? Modern LED sports lighting systems are a great way to increase the safety and comfort of your natatorium – while reducing energy consumption and running costs.

LEDs are quickly becoming the preferred choice for natatoriums and aquatic sports centers across the United States. They’re brighter, longer lasting, and more energy-efficient than traditional fluorescent bulbs. LEDs also provide better color rendition, improved glare control, and uniform coverage. This makes them ideal for highlighting the movement of swimmers in a pool or enhancing visibility for spectators watching from above.

The overall cost of an LED natatorium lighting installation can range from $35,000 to $660,000 depending on several factors like the quality of the lighting fixtures, the size of the natatorium, your geographical location, and the competition level.

But before you take the plunge, there are a few considerations to consider. Let’s look at some of the most important factors you should consider when selecting lighting for your natatorium.

Use our LED natatorium lighting cost calculator to get a customized cost estimate for your project.

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What influences the cost of natatorium lighting?

There is a multitude of factors that influence the cost of LED sports lighting for a natatorium. But once you’ve answered some key questions about your facility and potential project, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect in terms of price.

1 – New lighting system or LED retrofit?

The first consideration is your starting point. If you already have lights in place, a retrofit can be a cost-effective way to upgrade your existing equipment with LED technology. But if you’re starting from scratch, you’ll need to invest in a complete lighting system.

No matter which route you need to take, hiring a qualified and experienced sports lighting professional is always a good idea. They can help you identify and address any potential issues before they become costly problems down the line.

2 – Who are the main users of the natatorium or swimming pool?

The next question to answer is who will be using your facility. The requirements and expectations of a competitive swimmer at the pro, collegiate, or high school level are very different from those of a recreational swimmer or spectator.

LED lighting systems can be tailored to meet the needs of each type of user, so it’s important to think about who will be frequenting your natatorium and what they need the lighting to do for them.

3 – Size of the natatorium

Next, you’ll need to understand how your natatorium’s size impacts your lighting system’s cost. The larger the facility, the more lights you’ll need to account for in your planning. This can have a significant impact on your budget and upfront costs.

If you are still in the planning phases for new construction on your swimming facility, paying close attention to the size of the natatorium can help you better plan for lighting costs. The number of lights needed for an arena with multiple 50-meter Olympic-sized swimming pools is very different from the needs of a single 8-lane pool.

LED Natatorium lighting: cost, design and funding (2)

4 – Type of lighting fixtures

There are two types of lighting fixtures you can choose for your natatorium:

  • HID (High-intensity-discharge)
  • LED (Light-emitting-diode)

HID lights used to be the go-to solution for all sports lighting installations. They are cheaper upfront compared to LED but require more energy and maintenance to run. Their lifespan pales in comparison to the more modern LEDs.

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Although LED lighting is costlier initially, it will pay for itself over time through reduced energy costs and longer-lasting bulbs. In most cases, it takes only a couple of years to recoup the initial investment associated with new LED lights. LED lighting quality is also superior to HID.

5 – Quality of lighting fixtures

The quality of your lighting fixtures also matters, especially regarding HIDs. Cheaper HIDs lights may save you a bit upfront but will quickly become costly if they need to be replaced quickly.

When shopping for natatorium lighting, make sure you go with reputable manufacturers who back up their products with warranties and reliable customer service. Also, aim for the best quality lights within your budget to get maximum value for your money. This is where working with a professional really comes in handy. They can walk you through the best options for your financial situation.

6 – Geographical location

Labor, materials, and permits can vary greatly depending on your geographical location. This is another factor to consider when shopping for a new lighting system for your natatorium.

LED Natatorium Lighting Standards & Requirements

Once you understand who will frequent your facility, you must consider the specific requirements. If you’re creating a lighting system for a private or public school (or even a training center), you can get away with around 300 – 500 lux for your space.

However, if you’re planning to host an Olympic-level competition (or even broadcast on television), you’ll need at least 1200 lux to properly light your natatorium.

Here’s a full breakdown of the most common tiers.

Natatorium Lighting LevelsPool / DeckColor temperatureCRI

Class I: Professional

min. 75 fc / 50 fc


min. 80

Class II: Collegiate

min. 50 fc / 20 fc


min. 80

Class III: Intermediate competition

min. 30 fc / 10 fc


min. 80

Class IV: Recreational

min. 30 fc / 10 fc


min. 70

Lighting uniformity is also important in a natatorium setting and something you should consider before making any final decisions. The lights should be spread evenly across the entire space to ensure optimum visibility for swimmers.

In addition to coverage, the color temperature of your pool’s rights plays an important role in visibility. It’s crucial to consult a professional before making any decisions on the types of lights you install. Color rendering index (CRI) refers to how naturally and accurately colors are rendered. CRI is important for televised swimming events for optimal TV viewing experience.

LED Natatorium Lighting Design & Layout

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For indoor pools, look for LED lighting fixtures that can be attached to the ceiling (high-bay) to distribute light throughout the space evenly. Since these lights will be on all day, look for options with dimming capabilities and automatic shut-offs so they don’t stay on unnecessarily.

How many fixtures do I need?

This is determined by the type and size of your natatorium and its purpose. Essentially, you will need to understand the total area (pool, deck, spectator stands) that needs to be lit and then calculate how many lumens and what is the total wattage needed to reach the required lighting level for your purposes.

Here’s a calculation to give you an idea of how many and what type of LED lighters you would need for an Olympic-sized swimming pool with a 10 feet wide deck around it:

  • LED Lighting fixture efficiency: 130 lumens per watt (LPW)
  • Dimensions of the swimming pool: 164′ x 82′
  • Area of the swimming pool (sq ft): approx. 13,500
  • Area of the deck (sq ft): 5720
  • Total area to be lit: 13,500 + 5720 = 19,220 square feet
  • Lumen output needed (footcandles x square feet)
    • for the pool (recreational-professional): 405,000 – 1,012,500
    • for the deck (recreational-professional): 57,200 – 286,000
    • Total: 462,200 – 1,298,500
  • Total wattage needed (lumens : LPW 130)
    • recreational: approx. 3,500w
    • professional: approx. 10,000w
  • For a recreational natatorium, you will need at least 18 x 200-watt LED lighters.
  • For a professional, you will need at least 25 x 400-watt LED lighters.

Recreational natatorium lighting layout for an Olympic-sized swimming pool

LED Natatorium lighting: cost, design and funding (3)

Important considerations

Minimize glare

Glare occurs when light bounces off reflective surfaces and enters the eye’s cornea. Water is a highly-reflective surface, so mitigating glare in a natatorium is important for both swimmers and spectators.

You can do this by carefully choosing the level of lumen output, the color temperature, and the beam spread of your lighting fixtures. Working with a professional can help you get this just right for your facility.

Modern control system

We mentioned this a bit up above, but don’t overlook the importance of a modern lighting control system. This will allow you to control the amount of light output and its various settings from one central location, saving you money on energy bills, maintenance, and worker hours.

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How to finance an LED natatorium lighting installation?

As you can see, quite a bit goes into creating the perfect lighting system for your natatorium. As a result, it can be difficult to finance such an expensive project. Luckily, plenty of financing options are available to help you get the job done.

For starters, you could explore government grants or energy-saving loans that can help cover some of the costs associated with creating a new lighting system for your natatorium. Additionally, most commercial banks and credit unions offer lending programs specifically tailored to businesses in the swimming pool industry.

Check out these resources to find some of the best financing options for your project:

Sports facility grants database

LED sports lighting grants for schools and businesses

Get a cost estimate at an early stage

No matter what type of lighting system you have in mind for your natatorium, you’ll need to get an accurate cost estimate before making any decisions. Contact a professional and experienced lighting contractor to get a comprehensive assessment of your project that considers all the required components.

Be sure to compare estimates from multiple providers to find the best deal for your facility.

Want to get started with a cost estimate? Use our natatorium lighting cost calculator today.

To the cost calculator

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