Everyone knows about the success of Cosmic Bowling, the concept that brings moving lights and effects to the ten-pin set. Now the same idea is being applied to other kinds of sports and fitness activities. The cutting edge of this trend is in California, where lighting distributor Light Bulbs Etc. is pioneering new uses for effects gear.

For example, there's the fitness center at the Anaheim Hilton Hotel. It's a large, well-equipped facility, complete with basketball court, swimming pool, and exercise machines. In addition to serving the hotel's guests, the fitness center also offers memberships and classes to the general public.

The interesting part, for our purposes, is the spinning room, where three to four 45-minute long cycling classes are held each day. As anyone who's ever attended a gym well knows, most spinning classes feature a trainer yelling at the exercisers to pedal faster, with music to provide inspiration. Here, the Anaheim Hilton added special effects lighting to the facility's already-installed sound system, blending music and lighting to get the guests' blood pumping with a disco beat.

The lighting package, put together by Jason Sprenger of Light Bulbs Etc., consists of American DJ gear; it includes three RollerTron two-in-one intelligent effects units, which convert from barrel-mirror scanners to color changers with gobos; two Whirl moonflower units with rotating gobo patterns; two Roto Pod continuous white rotating moonflower effects; one Saturn 4 white-beam effects unit; one Mace II, with two colorballs rotating on a heavy-duty base; two Topaz moving-water effects, and four Epsilon Advanced Drive Series effects, in which 30 beams of multi-colored light rotate and criss-cross. Also part of the mix are blue rope light and eight 48" blacklight units. Control (except for the rope light, which has its own system) is via an Aviator controller, from American DJ.

The lighting is sound-activated to chase to the music; it's also programmed to coordinate with the workout routine in each class. The lights will move in one type of pattern, then automatically change each time the cyclers switch to a different speed. “They only thing we didn't do is put in fog or haze machines,” says Springer. “We tried, but people didn't want them.” He adds that hazers are totally safe, but fitness-conscious cyclers wouldn't accept that. Still, the hotel's management professes to be very happy with the newly lit fitness center, especially with the ease of working with the Aviator controller.

Meanwhile, in Upland, CA, about 50 miles east of Los Angeles, Cosmic Golf is taking off. While not providing the total fitness workout to be found at the Anaheim Hilton, Cosmic Golf adds a new spin to miniature golf.

Cosmic Golf is part of Boomers, a chain of family fun centers spread out over the US. According to Bob Davidson, the maintenance manager, the idea of Cosmic Golf came from a Boomers executive, who wanted to attract the teenage audience. Davidson has a long background in entertainment technology, having worked as technical director at the Lawrence Welk Dinner Theatre in Escondido and also as TD at the Halloween celebration at Knott's Berry Farm. So he set out to create a light rig to transform the rather dreary-looking space.

“I know from experience that American DJ gear is very user-friendly,” he says, adding, “its also more affordable.” Working with Rael Wolder of Light Bulbs Etc., he put together a rig that would work in a space where the ceilings range from 20-40' and yet would not tax the facility's power supply.

The golf course, located in a 100' × 150' space, has a Wild West theme and Davidson basically designed a small plot for each of the course's 18 holes. The gear list for the project includes one Copter Sphere, which rotates to create a helicopter effect; two XP3 intelligent moving heads with pan and tilt; one Whirl (see above), two Rover mini-moonflower effects; one Electra mini-moonflower effect; one DJ Scan, with four DJ Scan intelligent lights and a controller; three Topaz moving-water effects; one Emerald Beam laser effect; one BU-300™ bubble machine; one Mini-Starball, which emits 177 clear beams of light; one Alpha Moon DMX moonflower effect, and one H2O II™ image projector. In addition, there are Wildfire lights, Lightwave Research UV projectors, and High End System F100 foggers. The bubble machine contains Techno Bubbles, from Glow Side, which respond to UV light.

A visual highlight is the “waterfall of lights,” created on the site of a disused fountain. Davidson says he combined the Topaz units, “one on each side of the pond,” with the H20 units. “It keeps a constant water effect,” he adds. The water pipes of the original fountain are now used for pumping fog effects.

Control for the entire light rig is via a standard industrial timer with two contact relays. “A DMX system was too pricey for what I was doing,” he says. “Also, I don't need to have it programmed. I just turn on the lights, music, fog, and bubbles — and it all goes. I have them on a ten-minute on-off cycle; there are two sets of lights doing different things. When one set of units is on, the other set is cooling off.” Trussing was installed to provide lighting locations.

One challenge involved the obstacles on each hole —” there are bumps, volcanoes, all sorts of things. I didn't want too much ambient lighting, but then the obstacles tended to disappear. So we put Wildfire paint on them,” which allows them to be seen under the UV light.

How successful is Cosmic Golf? “Our golf sales have doubled,” says Davidson. “That's what sells nowadays. People want an ‘up’ atmosphere. The teenagers around here have no place to go, and, in addition to golf, we have other amusements onsite.” Get ready for more cosmic attractions to come.