Effort under way for ballparks to share energy data
Published September 21, 2009
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.
“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.
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.