Tulsa Arena Manager Explains Delay After Super Bowl Blackout

Monday, February 4th 2013, 10:30 pm
By: News On 6

A baffling blackout left Super Bowl spectators and broadcasters shocked Sunday night.

It caused a delay that stretched to more than half-an-hour. The electric company in New Orleans blamed a glitch in the power feed that automatically triggered a shutdown of the stadium's lights.

The blackout had everyone talking the day after the big game.

News On 6 learned Monday, many arenas, including Tulsa's biggest venues, are switching to metal halide lights, which, once they've been turned off, can take several minutes to power back up.

The BOK Center has metal halide lights and the Mabee Center switched to them a few years ago. They save money and one bulb can last up to six years. But they do have one drawback.

As TV viewers, players, coaches and spectators were left in the dark during the Super Bowl, Tony Winters says he knew exactly what was going on.

Winters is the General Manager of Oral Roberts University's Mabee Center.

"We had some friends over and I turned to them and said 'Hey, they're not going to have those bulbs on for at least 25 to 30 minutes,' and they laughed," he said.

Winters was right. The blackout lasted more than half an hour.

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"Those types of bulbs, almost all stadiums, all arenas have gone to this type of a fixture," Winters said.

The lights are made from a special material, so even if you flip the switch immediately after they lose power, it'll still take several minutes for the lights to come back on.

"The filament, the mechanism in the actual light has to cool down and they basically will not turn on. You cannot turn them on," Winters said.

So, you may be wondering how ORU is able to turn off the lights during their pre-game basketball shows. Well, there's a simple answer for that.

"When it needs to go dark in here, we have a shutter system that goes over the light that covers and blocks the light, but it doesn't turn the light off," Winters said.

ORU has 48 of those bulbs in its arena. Each is 1,000 watts and they're too powerful for ORU's backup generator.

"Basically, it will kick on all of our emergency lights, anywhere between five and 10 seconds before they'll actually kick on, so it is dark for just a little bit," Winters said.

The Mabee Center once had a similar situation as what happened at the Super Bowl. It happened a few years ago when lightning struck during Union High School's graduation ceremony.