Choosing the Right LED High Bay Lights for High School Gymnasiums: UFO-Style vs. Linear

Choosing the Right LED High Bay Lights for High School Gymnasiums: UFO-Style vs. Linear

Selecting the appropriate lighting for high school gymnasiums is a critical decision that impacts both the functionality and aesthetics of the space. Two popular choices in the market are  UFO-style round LED high bays and linear LED high bays. Each type has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and the ideal choice depends on a variety of factors such as the specific requirements of the space, the types of sports activities that will be conducted, and budget considerations. In this article, we'll explore the pros and cons of each, incorporating the latest market trends to help you make an informed decision.

UFO-Style Round LED High Bays

A UFO high bay is a modern lighting solution characterized by its round, saucer-like shape, resembling a UFO. Predominantly used in industrial and commercial spaces with high ceilings, such as warehouses and factories, these fixtures are equipped with LED technology that ensures high brightness levels and energy efficiency. Their compact design not only facilitates easy installation but also promotes uniform light distribution across large areas, enhancing visibility and safety. Built with durability in mind, they can withstand harsh environments, making them a cost-effective choice in the long run due to their long lifespan and reduced maintenance needs. Their wide beam angle and integration with control systems for dimming and managing lighting levels make them a versatile choice for various settings.



  • Compact Design: UFO-style high bays are generally more compact, making them easier to install. Their smaller form factor is particularly beneficial in high-ceiling environments where installation can be a challenge.
  • Uniform Light Distribution: These lights often provide a more uniform light distribution, which is beneficial for sports activities that require consistent lighting across the playing area. The concentrated light output can be particularly effective in high-ceiling spaces.
  • Durability: UFO-style high bays are robust and can withstand impacts better, an important consideration in a gymnasium where balls or other equipment may hit the lights. Their durability makes them a long-lasting option.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Due to their compact size, he latest models of UFO-style high bays are typically less expensive than their linear counterparts when comparing equal light output. This makes them a cost-effective choice for budget-conscious projects.


  • Aesthetics: The design of UFO-style high bays may not be to everyone's taste. They may not blend well with certain architectural styles, making them less versatile in terms of aesthetics.
  • Glare Control: One significant drawback of UFO-style high bays is the potential for glare. Because the light is emitted from a single, concentrated point, it can create glare issues, especially in sports where players frequently look upwards. This can be distracting and potentially hazardous during fast-paced activities.

Linear LED High Bays

A linear LED high bay is a type of lighting fixture designed to illuminate large indoor spaces with high ceilings, such as warehouses, manufacturing facilities, and gymnasiums. Unlike the compact, saucer-shaped UFO high bay, the linear LED high bay has a more elongated, rectangular form, which allows for a broader and more uniform distribution of light across a wide area. This design is particularly beneficial in spaces where precise control over lighting distribution is required, as it can help to minimize shadows and dark spots. Additionally, linear LED high bays often feature modular designs, allowing for greater flexibility in lighting configurations and facilitating easy integration with various control systems. Their sleek profile also tends to blend more seamlessly with modern architectural designs, offering a more aesthetic and streamlined look compared to the more industrial appearance of UFO high bays.



  • Design Flexibility: Linear high bays offer more flexibility in terms of design and can be arranged in various configurations to suit the space. This flexibility allows for more creative lighting solutions.
  • Even Light Distribution: The larger surface area of linear high bays helps distribute light more evenly across a wide space, reducing hotspots and shadows. This can be particularly beneficial in gymnasiums where even lighting is crucial for sports activities.
  • Reduced Glare: A larger surface area can also reduce glare, which is important in settings where people are looking up frequently. This makes them a strong choice for sports that require players to look upwards.


  • Installation Complexity: The larger form factor may make installation more challenging or time-consuming compared to the more compact UFO-style high bays. This could potentially increase labor costs.
  • Cost: Due to their larger size, linear LED high bays are generally more expensive than UFO-style high bays when comparing equal light output. This could be a significant factor for budget-sensitive projects.

Sports-Specific Considerations

Sports Benefiting from Lower Glare

Sports like basketball, volleyball, and badminton often require players to look upwards, making glare a significant concern. For these sports, linear LED high bays with their reduced glare and even light distribution can be a more suitable choice.

Sports Less Affected by Glare

On the other hand, sports like wrestling, gymnastics, and indoor track and field are less likely to be affected by glare from overhead lights. In these cases, the concentrated light output from UFO-style high bays may be more appropriate.

Other Considerations

Existing Mounting Options

If your project involves replacing existing high bays, you should pay close attention to the way those fixtures are currently mounted. Using a fixture that can be mounted in the same way will significantly lower your installation costs. For example, if the current fixtures are mounted from a rigid stem, it may be much easier to replace those with a UFO style high bay that can be mounted to the same stem. While Linear high bay fixtures often do have stem mounting options, the single point of support for a relatively larger fixture may make it more likely to be damaged in case its ever hit by a ball.

Ceiling Height

Higher ceilings may benefit more from UFO-style high bays due to their more concentrated light output. However, the specific needs of the space should be evaluated carefully.

Energy Efficiency

Both types are generally energy-efficient, but specific models may be available that offer more lumens for the same input wattage. To maximize the project's impact, it's important to compare the efficiency ratings of different models even if they have the same input wattage. You may find that you get more light output with a slightly more expensive fixture that has the same or lower input wattage than another.


LED high bays, whether UFO-style or linear, typically have integrated LEDs that do not require bulb replacements. The entire unit is replaced once it reaches the end of its operational life. Even if this timeframe is usually quite long, often 50,000 hours or more, your choice of fixture may be easier if you need to picking a fixture that would be easy to replace.


Unfortunately, there's no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to choosing between UFO-style and linear LED high bays for high school gyms. The best choice will depend on your specific needs, the activities that will take place in the gymnasium, and your budget. By considering the pros and cons of each type, as well as the specific sports that will be played, you can make a more informed decision that will benefit both athletes and spectators alike. Don't hesitate to  contact us if you'd like to discuss your gym lighting project and get specific recommendations for your application.

September 2, 2023 by Ray De Varona.