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Volume 21 No. 1
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Solar panel project adds further greening to Safeco Field

Don Muret
The Seattle Mariners are installing 168 solar panels on two structures tied to Safeco Field, one of the greenest facilities in sports.

The MLB club invested $300,000 for the solar system made by Sanyo, a longtime Mariners sponsor. The solar panels will be mounted on the roof of a skybridge connecting the ballpark to a parking garage and on the garage elevator canopy.

The panels, expected to produce 40,000 kilowatt hours of energy annually, will help power four new electric vehicle charging stations next to the parking garage, said Scott Jenkins, the team’s vice president of ballpark operations. Those charging stations, installed in November and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, can recharge a vehicle battery in two to six hours.

Skybridge solar panels will help power electric vehicle charging stations.
Safeco Field’s solar project is tiny compared with the 3,750-panel display across the street at the CenturyLink Field Event Center, the trade show facility connected to the NFL Seahawks’ home. For the Mariners, though, the solar initiative fits with the club’s sustainability efforts.

“It’s mostly a demo … in terms of the kilowatt hours, but we all know the best form of energy is what you don’t use,” Jenkins said.

Inside the ballpark, Sanyo plans to activate the deal by promoting solar energy on an existing display on the main concourse of Safeco Field. The display will be modified to track the park’s energy use during the season.

All told, the Mariners’ commitment to going green has paid off over a six-year stretch, team officials said. Since 2005, the team has saved $1.5 million in utility costs and it has increased recycling and composting to cover 80 percent of all waste generated at Safeco Field. That number has grown from 12 percent over the past six seasons.

In the Pacific Northwest, where sustainability is required for public buildings, a large portion of Safeco Field’s energy is generated from hydroelectric power because of its proximity to Puget Sound. In that respect, the park has a relatively small carbon footprint, Jenkins said.

In MLB, Safeco Field is a leader among parks participating in the EPA’s Energy Star program. In addition, Jenkins is chairman of the Green Sports Alliance, a nonprofit group of teams and facilities formed in 2011 to push for greener stadiums and arenas.

The club expects to have the solar panels installed by April 13, the date of the Mariners’ home opener.

FORE SALE: Get Real Sports, a firm teams and facilities use to outsource ticket sales, has signed a deal for the 2012 BMW Championship, a PGA Tour event and the third leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs.

The 2012 tournament has relocated to Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind., after a 20-year run at Cog Hill in suburban Chicago, where the event has also been known as the Western Open. Get Real Sports’ client is the Western Golf Association, the firm organizing the event.

For the week of Sept. 3-9, ticket prices range from $195 for a weekly ticket book to $32,000 for the all-inclusive Champions Club package for up to 300 people and access to a temporary suite next to the 18th green.

Get Real Sports, based in Indianapolis, began making sales calls in mid-January, targeting Midwest businesses from Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio, to Louisville, Ky., and Fort Wayne, Ind., said Jake Vernon, the company’s president.

Vernon expects the event’s format, heading into the final stop of the FedEx Cup, will boost ticket sales. With no player cut, the top 70 pro golfers will compete for the duration of the four-day tournament, in addition to practice rounds and a pro-am, he said.

TOUCHY SUBJECT: The use of computer tablets at sports facilities continues to grow, with Air Canada Centre and Quicken Loans Arena among the first major league arenas to introduce iPads in suites to generate additional revenue.

In Toronto, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the arena’s owner/operator, is conducting a short-term trial using iPads in 10 suites, allowing those patrons to

Air Canada Centre suites (top) are testing iPad interactivity while beverage ordering via tablet has been in place at the adjacent Maple Leaf Square since November.
order Maple Leafs and Raptors merchandise, which is then delivered to their skyboxes.

Separately, the organization is using iPads for patrons to choose their own alcoholic beverages at E11even, the high-end restaurant open the past 14 months at Maple Leaf Square next to the arena. Those iPads have been in use since November.

The suite trial began Dec. 15 at a hockey game. Maple Leaf Sports spent roughly $20,000 for the season on iPads with technology from an Ottawa company called TouShay, according to Bob Hunter, the group’s executive vice president of venues and entertainment.

About six weeks into the test, it was too early to gauge whether iPads are making a difference, but so far, officials are happy with sales.

“One of the areas we always felt was underserved was the suites, a lost opportunity,” Hunter said. “We have a decision to make at the end of the season. If it has legs, we will consider expanding it to food. With 145 suites, it would be a big commitment.”

In Cleveland, Aramark, the Cavaliers’ food provider, signed a five-year deal with Incentient, the same tech vendor used at the Maple Leaf Square restaurant. The concessionaire took the technology one step further than in Toronto, providing an iPad in all 92 suites programmed to allow suite occupants to order food and merchandise and buy tickets to future events.

The technology, branded as SmartTouch, is not an application in the traditional sense but an enterprise software system Incentient can customize for sports facilities and brand with team and sponsor logos, said Patrick Martucci, the firm’s chairman, CEO and founder.

About 80 percent of suite holders have used the iPads to reorder food and drink since Dec. 26, when the tablets were made available for the first time during the Cavaliers’ first regular-season home game, said Tracy Marek, the Cavaliers’ senior vice president of marketing and chief marketing officer.

Incentient charges Maple Leaf Sports and Aramark monthly fees to use its technology. Those costs can range from $1,500 to $30,000 depending on the number of iPads distributed and the depth of the technology.

Teams and facilities should expect a return of more than 20 percent a month after paying those fees, based on the deals Incentient has previously done with hotels and restaurants, Martucci said.

Aramark, meanwhile, is in talks with several of its MLB clients to use iPads in the suites at their ballparks, said Andrew Shipe, vice president of marketing for its sports and entertainment division. n

Don Muret can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @breakground.