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  • Arenas taking close look at LEED certification

    More NBA and NHL teams are showing interest in LEED after Philips Arena in Atlanta and AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami became the big leagues’ first two indoor buildings certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.

    LEED is an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It’s a voluntary green program administered by the U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit group not affiliated with the federal government.

    Compared with new facilities where LEED scores are weighed heavily toward design and construction, older buildings such as the 10-year-old arenas in Atlanta and Miami get certified by making changes within facility operations to reduce utility costs and cut waste by increasing recycling efforts.

    Elsewhere, Toyota Center in Houston is going through the LEED process and hopes to be certified in the first quarter of 2010, according to Doug Hall, the arena’s vice president and general manager.

    US Airways Center in Phoenix is considering LEED, and has talked to a pair of consultants, but no decision has been made whether to move forward, said Ralph Marchetta, the arena’s general manager.

    Target Center in Minneapolis, after installing a 2.5-acre green roof, is researching the possibility of pursuing LEED status but no decision has been made, said Tom Reller, AEG’s director of operations.

    AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami received
    its LEED certification in April.

    Philips Arena and AmericanAirlines Arena were both certified on April 6 despite taking different paths to achieve LEED recognition.

    Team owners drove LEED initiatives as the right thing to do to preserve the environment, but also with a goal in mind to create incremental revenue opportunities.

    The Heat tied its LEED commitment to the NBA’s first Green Week in April. Without hiring consultants, the club paid $25,000 to be certified, including a $15,000 expediting fee to ensure the arena would be certified in time for the NBA’s green activities.

    Those expenses did not include the $248,261 the team tied to arena improvements that contributed to LEED certification, said Kim Stone, the facility’s executive vice president and general manager. However, arena officials said they likely would have spent the money for those improvements anyway, had they chosen not to pursue certification.

    AmericanAirlines Arena’s original design helped the Heat get a head start on LEED, scoring automatic points for covered parking, underground irrigation and reflective roofing materials, plus the absence of a chiller plant that would otherwise burn lots of energy.

    Jim Spencer, vice president of operations, opened the arena in 1999, and his “impeccable record keeping” led the club to believe it could handle the LEED paperwork without paying a consultant, Stone said.

    Green by the numbers
    1.95: Millions of gallons of water Philips Arena saves per year since taking steps in 2008 to reduce water use, ranging from using low-flow plumbing to reducing irrigation.
    8%: Reduction in energy use at Philips Arena from 2007 to 2008, representing enough energy to power 1,336 homes for a month, or 111 homes for a year.

    In hindsight, the team could have used outside help, she said. The three people the Heat assigned to the LEED project each spent five months and 800 man-hours, in addition to their regular duties, to complete LEED documentation online.

    “They didn’t realize once they got into it what was involved,” Stone said. “It seems like on the LEED Web site, every time you fill out a form, five new pages open up you didn’t see before.”

    Waste Management, a new Heat sponsor, underwrote the costs, signing a three-year sponsorship valued in the low six figures that was tied to green efforts at the arena, said Steve Weber, the team’s vice president of sales. On a smaller scale, the team is signing new contracts with vendors, starting with Crystalline Water, a supplier to the team offices, as part of the arena’s green program. Crystalline provides point-of-use treatment systems for drinking water as an alternative to bottled water. “It has to be something that makes sense under our green umbrella,” Weber said.

    Atlanta Spirit, meanwhile, the group that owns the Hawks and Thrashers and operates Philips Arena, the first NBA and NHL facility to earn LEED status — by four hours — was already pursuing certification when the NBA announced its leaguewide green campaign early in the season.

    The group invested $120,000 for the project, including a $13,000 filing fee and $105,000 for technical assistance and expertise to upgrade the arena’s energy performance and reduce water consumption.

    Atlanta Spirit hired local consultant Southface Energy Institute and used Southeast Link, an arena sponsor and the facility’s cleaning material supplier, to help guide team executives through the LEED process.

    But key personnel such as Barry Henson, vice president of building and event operations, performed most of LEED’s legwork in addition to their regular duties. Considering the time staffers spent on the project, the total cost could be pegged at $200,000, officials said.

    There was no sponsor to pick up the tab in Atlanta, but arena marketers are talking to current partners such as Coca-Cola and Home Depot about signing new deals that make sense for green operations, said David Lee, the group’s vice president of business development.

    The operational mind-set has changed at both arenas after getting certified. In Atlanta, for example, officials are recycling the old carpet, cabinets, countertops and metals in the suites as Philips Arena completes a $5.5 million renovation of its 78 units.

    “From a LEED standpoint, you now look a lot more in-depth,” Henson said. “A lot more materials would have hit the Dumpster rather than allowing a contractor to assist you in getting these things re-used in the building.”

    In Miami, the Heat assumed a leadership role in a city that doesn’t always think first about being eco-friendly, Stone said. The arena’s new Mediamesh marquee runs on about one-tenth of the power compared with a traditional sign, she said.

    Both groups are also looking at ways to implement solar energy into their arenas.

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  • Bringing green to life

    Green isn’t the most sexy topic in sports facility development. But for pro teams, colleges and municipalities going down the path to sustainability, grass roofs, solar panels and the sites themselves can lead to long-term savings and reduce their buildings’ impact on the environment. Here’s a list of notable green designs for new construction, existing buildings and arenas and stadiums still in development:

    — Compiled by Don Muret

    METRODOME
    In Minneapolis, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission and the Minnesota Vikings are keeping the lid on a plan to reconstruct the Metrodome using sustainability as a primary theme. The two partners are waiting for public leaders to come to the table to help fund the nearly $1 billion project before determining how much green would fit into a renovated purple palace, said Lester Bagley, the club’s vice president of public affairs and stadium development. But last year’s study done by designer HKS and builder Mortenson to rebuild the 27-year-old facility contains options for a solar-powered retractable roof while recycling and reusing a substantial amount of construction material from tearing down most of the existing structure, Bagley said. The project, should it move forward, would seek LEED certification, joining the Twins’ and Gophers’ facilities in Minnesota pursuing the same goal.
    TARGET CENTER
    The Minnesota Timberwolves’ 19-year-old, publicly owned arena needed its leaky roof replaced, so city officials decided to invest $5.3 million to install a new roof made of grass and living plants. The 2.5-acre roof provides a much greater level of insulation for the building compared with the old rubber-and-rock structure, said Tom Reller, AEG’s director of operations for the arena. It also captures rainwater, reducing the amount of pollutive substances washing into the nearby Mississippi River. The roofing contractor surpassed its goal of using 50 percent recyclable materials to build the roof, using 450 tons of existing rock and more than 60 truckloads of existing roof insulation. It’s classified as an extensive roof, the kind you don’t have to mow, Reller said. Installation was to be completed in mid-September.
    MATTHEW KNIGHT ARENA
    Sustainable design is a state requirement, meaning the University of Oregon’s new basketball facility in Eugene is filled with green aspects that have nothing to do with the school’s primary color. The athletic department, Nike chairman Phil Knight (the chief donor for the project), and design firms Ellerbe Becket and TVA developed a 12,541-seat facility that should be certified LEED silver if not gold, one to two levels above the minimum score required for the green label, said Jon Niemuth, principal architect. A defining feature is the 27,000 square feet of natural wood walls covering the backside of the seating bowl. Using local timber products leaves a much smaller carbon footprint compared with other construction materials, making wood a greener choice, Niemuth said. The $200 million arena opens in 2010.
    NEW LOS ANGELES NFL STADIUM
    It may never get built, but that minor detail did not stop the World Architecture Festival from shortlisting the facility design for an award devoted to future commercial projects, due in large part to its green elements. Billionaire developer Ed Roski Jr. hired architect Dan Meis, a designer of NFL stadiums in Cincinnati and Philadelphia, to develop an environmentally progressive stadium in City of Industry, a Los Angeles suburb. They claim it will be the NFL’s first LEED gold building, setting the bar very high for that building type. The stadium would be built into a hill, reducing by 40 percent the amount of structural steel required for construction, which effectively would reduce the need to buy, produce and ship those materials. Southern California’s moderate climate also enabled Meis to design outdoor club lounges, eliminating the need to heat and cool those premium spaces.
    NEW SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS STADIUM
    HNTB’s design for the team’s proposed $937 million facility in Santa Clara stands out for the suite tower’s green roof and solar panels. But like the proposed stadium at City of Industry, it’s the site that makes the difference. In a water-strapped state, what’s unique about Santa Clara is the greywater recycling system the 49ers’ facility could tap into without having to waste fresh water to flush toilets. In addition, NFL fans could use mass transit on three existing rail lines, including Amtrak, to get to the stadium. “The infrastructure is such a significant part of building a stadium and it’s already in place,” said Tambra Thorson, HNTB’s director of sustainability. “We won’t have to waste resources building it.”

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  • Do’s and Don’ts of Going Green

    Helios Partners, a sports marketing agency based in Atlanta, launched the Helios Sports Sustainability Partnership in July to help connect sports properties, sponsors and event companies that want to reduce their impact on the environment. Kevin Donovan, vice president of Helios Partners, offers these tips for green initiatives:

    DO

    Be credible. Whatever you’re doing, it needs to be for more than show.

    Engage through participation. Give sponsors, consumers and fans an opportunity to be a part of the solution.

    Educate. Tell people something they don’t know. It doesn’t have to be scary. Ideally, it is something that connects their positive behavior with positive outcomes.

    Differentiate. Innovative programs deliver multiple benefits and set you apart from your competitors.

    Tap into the environmental social network to promote your activities. Environmental bloggers recognize authentic commitment and will share that with others.

    DON’T

    “Greenwash.” Engage in the appearance of environmental preservation at the expense of meaningful action.

    Overdo it in the promotional sense. That one recycling bin is not going to save the polar ice caps.

    Bite off more than you can chew. Sustainability goals can’t be achieved overnight.

    Undermine your progress. For example, don’t promote your green initiatives with tons of paper collateral.

    Stop. What is a green initiative today should be a standard practice tomorrow.

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  • Effort under way for ballparks to share energy data

    A small group of Major League Baseball stadium managers is beating the drum for all 30 of the league’s ballparks to participate in a benchmarking program for energy and water consumption. Their goal is to set new standards across baseball to serve as a primer for cutting costs and saving energy over the long run.

    The St. Louis Cardinals and Seattle Mariners are spearheading the effort, encouraging their colleagues to spend about one hour of their time to input their utilities data into Portfolio Manager, a Web-based tool administered by Energy Star, a joint program of the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.

    In addition to St. Louis and Seattle, the Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds and Colorado Rockies have registered and compiled their parks’ utilities information with Portfolio Manager. That’s a total of 20 percent of all MLB clubs.

    MLB stadium managers hold their own informal meetings after the season ends, and after initial talks about Energy Star’s program in 2008, the plan is to get 100 percent participation after this year’s gathering, scheduled for Nov. 16 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.

    “It’s a good management practice for operating a building and we all want to minimize costs,” said Joe Abernathy, the Cardinals’ vice president of stadium operations.

    Participation has been minimal to this point, largely due to the demands stadium managers face during the six-month baseball season and other responsibilities take priority, said Scott Jenkins, vice president of ballpark operations at Safeco Field.

    “We realize that if a bunch of us sign up for it, we will get good benchmarking data to see how we compare with each other,” Jenkins said. “Until then, we don’t have much information to rely on. We have six teams and are trying to get more on board.”

    The movement to set those new guidelines started in March 2008, when the Natural Resources Defense Council and MLB jointly created the Team Greening Program to develop eco-friendly practices in baseball.

    Safeco Field is among the ballparks helping
    to set benchmarks for energy and water use.

    “The NRDC reached out to MLB and challenged it to take a look at sustainability factors and have the teams collectively do a better job,” Abernathy said.

    Since then, Energy Star has reached out to work with MLB clubs in tandem with the Stadium Managers Association, a trade group, providing online seminars and other instructional materials to educate stadium managers on the benefits of using Portfolio Manager.

    Energy Star started in 1992 as a voluntary labeling procedure designed to identify and promote energy-efficient products to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Since then, it has expanded its scope to provide free online resources for commercial buildings to track energy use.

    Portfolio Manager enables facility operators to securely input their utilities data and assess their building’s performance over time, said Anna Stark, program manager for Energy Star’s commercial markets. Any sports facility can use the system.

    Other building types that have gone through the same benchmarking process have seen a 25 percent to 30 percent reduction in utility costs after tracking energy and water use and making adjustments, said Stark, whose focus is on retail, entertainment and hospitality venues.

    Turnkey Sports Poll
    The following are results of the Turnkey Sports Poll taken in August. The survey covered more than 1,100 senior-level sports industry executives spanning professional and college sports.
    Which of the following is the most important benefit to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for venues? (LEED certification requires meeting strict standards for environmentally sustainable construction/operation.)
    Environmental benefits
    32.42%
    Positive PR
    31.74%
    Cost savings
    16.38%
    Better ability to maintain and obtain bookings
    2.39%
    N/A - there are no benefits to LEED certification
    2.39%
    No response/Not sure
    14.68%
    Source: Turnkey Sports & Entertainment in conjunction with SportsBusiness Journal. Turnkey Intelligence specializes in research, measurement and lead generation for brands and properties. Visit www.turnkeyse.com.

    Such industry standards are currently lacking for stadiums because they are such a small subset compared with schools and hospitals, and as a result, ballparks have gone under the radar on a national level, Abernathy said. It takes a year’s worth of data to set those benchmarks, Stark said.

    “None of that exists for MLB and it’s a matter of education and taking the initiative,” Abernathy said. “When we try to get that info we have to go to the architects and engineers, and they would run calculations and give us guesstimates. Nobody stopped to say, ‘What’s the real data?’”

    Individually, some clubs have implemented green measures on their own over the past few years as the green movement in sports has gained momentum. The Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians installed solar systems to power small portions of their ballparks. The Diamondbacks, meanwhile, are going through the process of getting Chase Field LEED certified, and the Energy Star tools are a key component for providing information to earn that green designation, Stark said.

    Abernathy began tracking Busch Stadium’s energy use on his own shortly after the ballpark opened in 2006. It was the perfect time to do so, starting fresh in a new facility, he said.

    Since that time, the Cardinals saved 25 percent in energy costs in their first seasons at new Busch Stadium, coming close to meeting Abernathy’s goal of 10 percent for each season.

    Adjusting air intake systems, reducing wattage in light fixtures and installing occupancy sensors that automatically turn the lights off in a room when nobody is there are three examples of how the Cardinals have saved money. “The changes are about fine-tuning the systems you have,” Abernathy said.

    The NFL and college football stadiums, some of whom are Stadium Managers Association members, could also reap the benefits of using Portfolio Manager, Jenkins said.

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  • Green marketing requires caution

    The Washington Nationals were the toast of the “green” world last year when the team opened the nation’s first LEED-certified stadium. Months later, the grounds of the stadium were picketed by environmentalists bemoaning the team’s new sponsorship with ExxonMobil, which Greenpeace has labeled the “No. 1 climate criminal.”

    “Exxon in a green stadium is like having Marlboro sponsor a stadium that promotes clean air,” said Mike Tidwell, director of Chesapeake Climate Action Network, who helped organize the seasonlong protests.

    The Nationals play in an LEED-certified
    ballpark, but drew heat for an
    ExxonMobil sponsorship.

    The good will turned hostility is a perfect example of the need for sports properties to understand the delicate balance of operations, sponsorship and communication in the complex world of green marketing, said experts in the field.

    The desire to build good will by instituting and promoting green initiatives, and building out sponsorship categories to help pay for such actions, have led to a new emphasis on environmentalism among sports properties and television networks.

    “The sports industry is at the very beginning of figuring this out,” said Mark Andrew, president of Minneapolis-based GreenMark Sports, which is consulting on the new Minnesota Twins ballpark. “What you’re going to see over the next couple of years is a rapid evolution to a new level of sustainability practices in sports, connected to profit motive.”

    From recycling programs and LEED certification at stadiums, to NBC dimming the lights during its “Sunday Night Football” studio show, the sports industry is in the fledgling stages of implementing eco-friendly activities into daily operations.

    A marketing gimmick?
    Q: Overall, are green initiatives in today’s sports industry genuine?
    No, it is just a marketing gimmick
    Yes, the industry feels that it is an important issue
    No response/Not sure
    Source: Turnkey Sports Poll, August 2009 and October 2008. The survey covered more than 1,100 senior-level sports industry executives spanning professional and college sports.

    Properties that figure out how to lessen their environmental footprints through changes to stadium and event operations are generally asking two questions:

    “Can we either offset costs or make any money off of it?” and

    “How, and to what extent, should we promote our actions?”

    Properties and agencies are initially auditing their operations to identify and sell sponsorships in categories such as transportation, energy, water, building materials, lighting and waste/recycling to help defray the costs of building new facilities or retrofitting older ones.

    Agencies and properties differ on the potential size of green sponsorship categories because there is no consensus on the mix of rights fees and value-in-kind associated, or what kind of inventory should be part of a green sponsorship. Deals in the environmental categories are generally longer than an average sponsorship because many involve capital investments in equipment.

    The Cleveland Cavaliers are taking a different approach by trying to sell presenting sponsorship rights that would provide co-branding to all of the team’s environmental efforts, team officials said. The company would use the Cavaliers to promote their own green activities while helping the team further their own efforts.

    “There’s a lot of companies out there looking for a communication tool to talk about what they’re doing,” said Kerry Bubolz, executive vice president of corporate sales, broadcasting and minor league operations for the Cavs.

    While some teams and league properties go it alone, others without in-house experience in green marketing are hiring agencies or public relations firms with experience selling and promoting environmental activities outside the sports industry.

    The Eagles’ “Go Green” campaign is
    seen as a successful example
    of green marketing.

    GreenMark, Helios Partners and Sponsorship Green are among agencies with dedicated environmental sponsorship practices. Another adviser is the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has been enlisted by Major League Baseball, the NBA, the U.S. Tennis Association and the Philadelphia Eagles to examine their operations and help build promotional campaigns.

    Another important consideration, given the sensitivity of environmental sustainability, is that “greening” an organization must be a systemic pursuit and not an improperly marketed one-off meant to garner a few press clippings, or good intentions can quickly become a public relations problem.

    “Don’t think that because you’re doing a few things that you’re green, or that you have a green program that you should be touting, because that’s where you get in trouble,” said Larry Weil, owner of Texas-based Sponsorship Green. “The problem is that people do a couple of green things and then they say they’re green, when there are varying shades of green.”

    Backlash can come from overstatement of your activities, or tying your efforts to a corporate sponsor that has a less-than-stellar history as an environmental leader.

    The Eagles’ “Go Green” campaign is considered among the more successful efforts in sports because team executives viewed environmentalism as an endemic pursuit and did not overstate their actions.

    “You have to do your homework because the credibility of your brand is at stake,” Weil said. “The world’s a little more complicated than it used to be.”

    Print | Tags: In-Depth
  • Green marketing requires caution

    The Washington Nationals were the toast of the “green” world last year when the team opened the nation’s first LEED-certified stadium. Months later, the grounds of the stadium were picketed by environmentalists bemoaning the team’s new sponsorship with ExxonMobil, which Greenpeace has labeled the “No. 1 climate criminal.”

    “Exxon in a green stadium is like having Marlboro sponsor a stadium that promotes clean air,” said Mike Tidwell, director of Chesapeake Climate Action Network, who helped organize the seasonlong protests.

    The Nationals play in an LEED-certified
    ballpark, but drew heat for an
    ExxonMobil sponsorship.

    The good will turned hostility is a perfect example of the need for sports properties to understand the delicate balance of operations, sponsorship and communication in the complex world of green marketing, said experts in the field.

    The desire to build good will by instituting and promoting green initiatives, and building out sponsorship categories to help pay for such actions, have led to a new emphasis on environmentalism among sports properties and television networks.

    “The sports industry is at the very beginning of figuring this out,” said Mark Andrew, president of Minneapolis-based GreenMark Sports, which is consulting on the new Minnesota Twins ballpark. “What you’re going to see over the next couple of years is a rapid evolution to a new level of sustainability practices in sports, connected to profit motive.”

    From recycling programs and LEED certification at stadiums, to NBC dimming the lights during its “Sunday Night Football” studio show, the sports industry is in the fledgling stages of implementing eco-friendly activities into daily operations.

    A marketing gimmick?
    Q: Overall, are green initiatives in today’s sports industry genuine?
    No, it is just a marketing gimmick
    Yes, the industry feels that it is an important issue
    No response/Not sure
    Source: Turnkey Sports Poll, August 2009 and October 2008. The survey covered more than 1,100 senior-level sports industry executives spanning professional and college sports.

    Properties that figure out how to lessen their environmental footprints through changes to stadium and event operations are generally asking two questions:

    “Can we either offset costs or make any money off of it?” and

    “How, and to what extent, should we promote our actions?”

    Properties and agencies are initially auditing their operations to identify and sell sponsorships in categories such as transportation, energy, water, building materials, lighting and waste/recycling to help defray the costs of building new facilities or retrofitting older ones.

    Agencies and properties differ on the potential size of green sponsorship categories because there is no consensus on the mix of rights fees and value-in-kind associated, or what kind of inventory should be part of a green sponsorship. Deals in the environmental categories are generally longer than an average sponsorship because many involve capital investments in equipment.

    The Cleveland Cavaliers are taking a different approach by trying to sell presenting sponsorship rights that would provide co-branding to all of the team’s environmental efforts, team officials said. The company would use the Cavaliers to promote their own green activities while helping the team further their own efforts.

    “There’s a lot of companies out there looking for a communication tool to talk about what they’re doing,” said Kerry Bubolz, executive vice president of corporate sales, broadcasting and minor league operations for the Cavs.

    While some teams and league properties go it alone, others without in-house experience in green marketing are hiring agencies or public relations firms with experience selling and promoting environmental activities outside the sports industry.

    The Eagles’ “Go Green” campaign is
    seen as a successful example
    of green marketing.

    GreenMark, Helios Partners and Sponsorship Green are among agencies with dedicated environmental sponsorship practices. Another adviser is the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has been enlisted by Major League Baseball, the NBA, the U.S. Tennis Association and the Philadelphia Eagles to examine their operations and help build promotional campaigns.

    Another important consideration, given the sensitivity of environmental sustainability, is that “greening” an organization must be a systemic pursuit and not an improperly marketed one-off meant to garner a few press clippings, or good intentions can quickly become a public relations problem.

    “Don’t think that because you’re doing a few things that you’re green, or that you have a green program that you should be touting, because that’s where you get in trouble,” said Larry Weil, owner of Texas-based Sponsorship Green. “The problem is that people do a couple of green things and then they say they’re green, when there are varying shades of green.”

    Backlash can come from overstatement of your activities, or tying your efforts to a corporate sponsor that has a less-than-stellar history as an environmental leader.

    The Eagles’ “Go Green” campaign is considered among the more successful efforts in sports because team executives viewed environmentalism as an endemic pursuit and did not overstate their actions.

    “You have to do your homework because the credibility of your brand is at stake,” Weil said. “The world’s a little more complicated than it used to be.”

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  • Here comes the sun?

    They call Florida the Sunshine State. And yet, at a time when teams, leagues and sports architects say they are paying more attention than ever to environmentally friendly design and operation of their facilities, neither of the two major pro teams that have broken ground on new digs in the state will get much, if any, of their power from the sun.

    Both say they found that one of the few sources of clean, renewable energy doesn’t make economic sense for a stadium or arena, at least not yet.

    Even with the price of solar panels cut nearly in half since last year and projected to continue falling; even with a federal tax break that covers 30 percent of the installed cost, with no cap; even with state incentives that are as attractive as the federal perk in some locales; even with electricity rates expected to continue to rise; even with utilities on the clock to incorporate more clean power or face stiff penalties.

    Solar panels cover the rooftop of the
    Staples Center in Los Angeles.

    Even with all that, most teams that have looked into solar say they find they can’t break even — or come close — without stretching the payback across two or three decades. And that even if they were willing to wait out the payback, they’d have a hard time finding space for the thousands of panels they would need to create enough power to come close to sating the enormous appetite of a stadium or arena.

    And so the Orlando Magic, who will open the new Amway Center in 2010, doesn’t plan to install any solar panels. The Florida Marlins will use solar only on the four parking garages adjacent to the new, retractable-roof ballpark they will open in 2012.

    Still, both expect to achieve LEED certification, the standard by which the U.S. Green Building Council recognizes sustainable environmental practices in design, construction and operation.

    In April, AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami gained LEED certification, joining Philips Arena in Atlanta as the first arenas in the nation to do so (see story, page 16). Neither of those incorporated solar.

    “The facilities today all are being designed to a certain LEED standard, and yet solar really isn’t part of the conversation,” said Mike Wooley, who specializes in LEED operations and maintenance for sports architecture firm Populous. “Nobody has come up with that magic product that says ‘this is lightweight, the infrastructure is minimal and you can get your return on investment within a few years.’ Until that happens, it’s not going to be something that people are going to universally yearn for as a part of their sustainable design.”

    At the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nonprofit group that works as a consultant with Major League Baseball and the NBA, among others in sports, the dearth of solar initiatives is disturbing.

    The NRDC scientist who works with the sports properties, Allen Hershkowitz, has set a goal of convincing every team in MLB and the NBA to install at least some solar panels within the next seven years. He said he was “terribly disappointed” when neither the New York Yankees nor the New York Mets put panels on their new ballparks, especially since putting in solar thermal to heat water costs less than $200,000.

    When architects and facility managers consider sustainability, they generally do it within the parameters of LEED certification, which is based on the accumulation of points.

    In order to gain even one point for installing on-site renewable energy, such as solar panels or wind turbines, a facility would have to get at least 2.5 percent of its power from them. To get two points it would have to get 7.5 percent from them. Since there are far cheaper ways to get points, such as by using energy efficient equipment or installing low-flow plumbing, teams typically tell their architects and builders to go in other directions.

    “Typically the operations people want to see meaningful energy benefits, and we support that,” Hershkowitz said. “But we think that there’s value when you look at a place like Fenway Park, where solar provides one third of the energy needed to heat the water. That’s a very small amount. But we think that’s still important, because a fan sees it and it raises awareness.

    “So much of this is being driven by LEED, and that’s good, but that’s not enough. This is not about scoring LEED points. This is about making an impact when we’re facing a planetary emergency. Any impact is good.”

    Numbers don’t work

    While a handful of pro stadiums and arenas have erected small solar arrays and many others are considering it — if they can find a sponsor to pay for it — those are more about promoting a green message than shifting to a sustainable power model.

    In Major League Baseball, the San Francisco Giants, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians and Colorado Rockies all have installed small clusters of solar panels. Of those, the Giants have the largest installation: 590 panels that generate 123 kilowatts, or a bit more than it takes to power the center-field Diamond Vision scoreboard. It takes almost 10 times that much energy to light the typical field for a night game.

    The 50,000-seat Kaohsiung World Stadium,
    built in Taiwan for the World Games, took
    solar to the extreme, incorporating a
    roof that is covered with 8,844 solar panels.

    To create the wattage needed to come close to powering a stadium, the design would have to incorporate solar in a manner that only one in the world has thus far. Opened in July to host the World Games in Taiwan , the 50,000-seat Kaohsiung World Stadium includes a roof capped by 8,844 solar panels, which are projected to generate 1.14 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year.

    While that’s substantial, it’s not close to what the typical U.S. stadium burns. The conservation-conscious Philadelphia Eagles use more than 15 million kwh of electricity per year at Lincoln Financial Field.

    Only three major pro sports facilities in the U.S. have embarked upon solar projects designed to provide more than a percent or two of their power: Staples Center in Los Angeles, US Airways Center in Phoenix and Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania.

    Only Staples Center is actually up and running. In October, it spent $2.3 million to install a 345-kilowatt system that covers about 25,000 square feet of the arena roof and $1.2 million for a smaller system at the adjacent Nokia Theatre. The installations provide about 10 percent of the power for the theater and almost 3 percent of the juice for the arena.

    The Phoenix Suns announced in October that they would place about 1,100 panels on the roof of adjacent parking garages, but the plan stalled as the result of a regulatory dispute. Negotiations were ongoing last week and Suns CEO Rick Welts said the franchise remains committed to the project, which is expected to cost about $1.5 million.

    Later this year, Pocono will spend about $16 million to install 39,960 panels, each 2 feet by 4 feet, on 25 acres of vacant land it once used for parking, creating a 3 megawatt solar farm that will generate enough electricity to power the facility, plus meet the needs of nearly 1,000 homes when the additional, unused power is fed into the grid.

    While that’s a massive, enviable project — and one that Pocono projects will start turning a profit in about 10 years — it’s not realistic for most facilities, which are built on far smaller footprints.

    “It just takes a tremendous amount of surface area to create an advantage,” said Robert Rayborn, a project executive for Turner Construction, one of the leading stadium and arena builders. “That’s why, in general, we don’t see more of it. Between the space, the weight and the cost, it’s hard to find a way to make it work.”

    It’s not for lack of interest.

    The Magic, Marlins and Miami Heat all say they explored solar power. While Florida doesn’t get as many hours of intense sun as Arizona or Southern California, it’s not far behind.

    In Orlando, the Magic and the city considered putting panels on the arena roof, the parking garages and a connector bridge that joins them. They found that, covering all that space, they’d still be hard-pressed to reach the 2.5 percent of power generation needed to get the first LEED point.

    “It would have meant spending millions of dollars up front for thousands of dollars in return on an annual basis,” said Brad Clark, an architect with Populous, designer of the new Orlando arena. “We were talking about large volume, rather than a feel-good display. Considering the cost vs. payback, it was not practical.”

    The Marlins went into the planning for their new ballpark with high hopes of harnessing the South Florida sun. They considered solar power on a continuum, ranging from the largest installation they could build down to doing nothing at all. They landed closer to the latter than the former.

    “We knew you couldn’t run a building like this on solar, but can you buttress your regular power with solar power in a meaningful way?” asked David Samson, the Marlins’ president. “The answer was maybe. So we were a little bit hopeful. But then you look at the cost effectiveness of that power. We did that equation, and it’s an iffy proposition. It was not something that we were able to get comfortable with.”

    The Heat became interested in solar while going through LEED certification last year. They contacted the company that installed panels at Staples Center, but found the cost to be prohibitive. They since have floated the idea of a small solar or wind installation to the local power provider and said they’re waiting to hear back. That’s where most teams are landing as they explore possibilities for alternative energy.

    “I just don’t think people feel solar is the answer,” said Kathy Behrens, executive vice president for social responsibility and player programs at the NBA. “They’re looking at it in homes in a way they hadn’t before. But it doesn’t make sense for all our buildings. They’re not all designed in such a way that solar is an easy answer. And if it’s not … the juice might not be worth the squeeze.”

    Next year, the New York Jets and New York Giants will open their new stadium in New Jersey, which has the most solar power installed per capita of any state other than California. Stadium executives have been contacted by at least a half dozen companies proposing solar panels or wind turbines at the facility, said Dave Duernberger, vice president of facility operations for the New Meadowlands Stadium Company.

    Duernberger came to the stadium earlier this year from the Philadelphia Eagles, the acknowledged leader on sustainability issues among U.S. sports teams. The Eagles, who have a small solar array at their training facility, have looked into doing something larger at their stadium for years, but haven’t hit on anything that makes sense. They’ve made a priority of other more cost-efficient investments that deliver a larger impact.

    “In order to really make a dent requires a substantial amount of real estate, otherwise you can’t harness enough power to make a difference,” Duernberger said. “That’s a big challenge. Our building is massive, at over 2 million square feet. There’s a lot of space, so there could be some opportunities. But it’s not easy to get a payback. We’ll see.”

    Pocono powers up

    The largest solar installation plan tied to any sports facility in the world was born of a joke cracked while two executives at Pocono Raceway were fretting about an anticipated $500,000 annual increase in their power bill stemming from deregulation in Pennsylvania.

    George Ewald, the vice president and superintendent, told the track president, Brandon Igdalsky, that they should just put solar panels on the roof and cut the power cord entirely.

    Ewald was joking. But then they thought more about it. And talked more. And investigated. The more they dug, the more plausible it seemed. Igdalsky was at lunch after a parade celebrating the Phillies’ World Series win when he struck up a conversation with a stranger who, it turned out, owned a company that installs solar panels. It sounded like solar at a speedway could make sense.

    “When we did our due diligence and became educated, we started realizing the possibilities,” Igdalsky said. “The stimulus package did a lot for renewable energy. Between (the 30 percent tax credit) and state grants and federal money that trickled down that we’ve been applying for, it all made sense.”

    The rendering above depicts the location of the
    massive solar farm planned by Pocono Raceway
    while the photo (right) shows the types of solar
    panels that will be used.

    Because the installation is so large, it should cover the speedway’s power needs with ease. The additional power it throws off then will feed into the local power grid. The speedway will get a check each month for the excess power.

    More importantly, it also will earn renewable energy credits (REC), which it will trade on the open market. Power providers purchase RECs to meet the clean energy requirements that have been imposed by many state regulators. Igdalsky estimates those will be worth $2 million to $3 million annually, in Pennsylvania, and could increase in value.

    The speedway expects that between what it will save on power, the electricity it sells back and the revenue from RECs, the project will pay for itself in 10 years.

    “And that’s worst-case scenario,” Igdalsky said. “If rates increase like we think they might be, it could be six or eight years.

    “We couldn’t afford not to do it.”

    Staples Center, with the heaviest solar installation that the building’s roof could handle, expects to recoup its investment in six and a half years.

    About this edition
    For the second year in a row, SportsBusiness Journal is highlighting ways the sports industry is working to be more environmentally friendly. Like last year’s special issue, this edition of SportsBusiness Journal is printed on a noncoated stock of acid-free paper that is fully recyclable.

    “We were under no illusions that this would be able to pay for itself in five years,” said Lee Zeidman, senior vice president and general manager of Staples Center and Nokia Theatre. “What we felt was more important was that we could now go to artists and agents and managers and show we are taking an additional step to become more green. … That matters to people.”

    In meetings with both MLB and the NBA in the coming month, Hershkowitz intends to stress that point, hoping to convince the leagues to nudge teams toward installing panels or turbines, even if only on a small scale. Lower prices, combined with federal and state incentives, have made solar more affordable. Hershkowitz believes the push toward sustainable power makes a stadium or arena a logical place for a utility to underwrite the cost as part of a sponsorship.

    “The absence of solar is not a result of teams’ unwillingness to consider it,” Hershkowitz said. “It’s that they are bumping into some very unfortunate economics. It really is an uphill battle to incorporate alternative energy systems in a cost competitive way. I understand that. But the point is not to just throw your hands up and say we can’t do it.

    “We have to figure this out.”

    Staff writer Don Muret contributed to this report.

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