Melbourne Cricket Ground - MCG Light Towers
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MCG Light Towers

An MCG light tower.While there was an ultimately futile attempt to introduce football under lights at the MCG in 1879, it wasn’t until a century later that the prospect of lighting the arena for sporting events again came under serious consideration.

Cricket authorities in particular wanted to promote day/night matches for television audiences, but the initiative also proved extremely beneficial for football, and both sports played their first matches under the MCG lights in 1985.

Now an instantly recognisable landmark of Melbourne, the lights have revolutionised sport at the ground and become an integral part of stadium operations, night cricket and football proving immensely popular with the sporting public.

The construction of the light towers was completed in December 1984 in a joint initiative between the MCC and Cricket Victoria.

The MCG was first lit up at 9:30pm on the night of December 3, 1984 by the then State Premier and MCG Trustee the Honourable John Cain.

The MCG light towers were first used for an event on February 17, 1985 for a World Championship of Cricket match between Australia and England.


The light tower system comprises of six light towers which stand approximately 75 metres high (equivalent to a 24-story building) with the head frame a further 10 metres higher (85 metres overall).

The foundations for the towers consist of four reinforced concrete piers which are set down in depth from seven to 12 metres depending on the sub surface structure. Each of the hollow tubular steel towers contains about 130 tonnes of steel. The diameter reduces from 4.2 metres at the base to two metres at the top.

There are between 12 and 14 landings connecting ladders inside each tower. The head frames of the towers are angled in at 15 Degrees in order to provide optimum levels of light.


Power to the light towers is supplied off an 11kV electrical ring main into a transformer inside the base of each tower, which reduces the voltage down to 415 volts. The total power consumption at any given time is approximately 1800Kilowatts.

Total Consumption for a year would be approximately 360,000kWh, this is based upon a running time of 400 hours over a twelve month term.

Due to the configuration of the power supply at the ground it is a highly unlikely that power would be lost to the whole ground as we have multiple feeds supplying the ground. Portions of Melbourne would also lose power if there were to be an interruption of power supply.

Lamps (Light globes)

Each light tower has an average of 140 no. 2KW (2000-Watt) Metal Halide lamps within the head frame. The number of lamps in each tower varies relative to their position to the central wicket area. The lamps have an effective life of approximately 5000 running hours and about 30 lamps on average are replaced each year.

The vertical design level of illumination is 1500 lux. The levels of lighting are achieved by the computer generated individual setting of all 844 lamps to predetermined angles to provide maximum coverage of the arena without any shadowed or dark spot areas. Computer simulation of tower shadows was used to position towers so as to minimise shadows on the pitch area.

The number of running hours for the light towers for a year depends upon the number of events held at night or over a day/night period i.e. football and cricket as well as other one off events like soccer, international rules, concerts, rugby etc.

Where are the lights turned on? The light towers are controlled by computer program which when activated stages lighting on level by level. The Light Tower lighting system has two built in redundancies should the computer system fail:

(a) Manually turn the system on via a console located in a Plant room in the Great Southern Stand, or
(b) Turn each tower on individually at the tower’s own dedicated controls located in each tower.

The lights take approximately 10 minutes to become fully illuminated. If the lights are turned off they cannot be turned back on for another 15 minutes as they require time to cool down and then warm back up (re-strike time).

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