SBJ/Oct. 7-13, 2013/In Depth

Xcel Energy Center reaches for goals

The NHL nominated Xcel Energy Center this year for the Beyond Sport Award for excellence in sustainability. It didn’t win, but the home arena of the Minnesota Wild has come a long way since management first started establishing goals five years ago to reduce the facility’s carbon footprint and boost its energy efficiency.

Last year, the arena and its adjacent convention center complex, St. Paul RiverCentre, generated 65 percent less trash than it did in 2008. The complex is 20 percent more energy efficient than similar facilities in the region.

Jim Ibister, vice president of facility administration for the Wild and general manager of the St. Paul RiverCentre, said the key to sustainability efforts is simplicity. “Create systems where it would be very difficult to fail,” Ibister advised.

These can be high-tech and low-tech. The RiverCentre has a large solar thermal array, built with a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, that generates hot water. The arena has a 1-1 ratio of trash cans to bins for recycling everything from cans, bottles and cardboard to cooking grease and fluorescent bulbs. Xcel Energy Center has strict guidelines for purchasing environmentally preferable products, such as recycled-content paper products and high-efficiency electronics and computer equipment.

To conserve water, restroom sinks have automatic or self-closing faucets, and commodes and urinals have automatic flushers. The lights in the parking lots have been upgraded to energy-efficient. Security and operations staffers routinely check each area of the arena to make sure that any unnecessary lighting is turned off. When Wild games and concerts are completed, arena cleaners make multiple passes through the seating areas in order to sort the trash.
In all premium areas and lounges at the arena, all disposables are compostable or recyclable.

Ibister and his staff evaluate their efforts, discuss new ideas and share best practices with colleagues around the NHL in a group led by Omar Mitchell, the league’s director of sustainability.

“With all of these initiatives, you have to lead with your food and beverage partners, which in our case is Levy Restaurants,” Ibister said. “You also have to lead with your fans. This has been a collective effort and a great source of pride.”

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