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Volume 22 No. 19

In Depth

It takes more than a hot dog and a beer to please fans these days, and venue operators are seeking to keep up with the growing desire for healthier, locally based food while also helping the environment with sustainability practices that reduce water and energy usage, promote recycling and composting, and keep trash out of landfills.

New green practices include adding on-site organic gardens to provide fresh, healthy produce; wiser menu design that incorporates plans to reduce waste; adding serviceware and packaging that are reusable, recyclable or compostable; and donating unsold food to the needy. Such projects are often done in conjunction with each facility’s concessionaire.

“There is a real demand from fans and increasing awareness about where foods are coming from,” said Alice Henly, director of programs at the Green Sports Alliance and a resource specialist at the National Resources Defense Council. “This rise in interest in consumers across North America is about where it’s coming from, how it’s produced and how healthy it is for them.”

The Green Sports Alliance has almost 300 members (139 teams, 145 venues and nine leagues).
Here’s a sampling of green practices nationwide.

Fenway Farms opened in March at the home of the Boston Red Sox. “Fans are truly excited to have fresh

Fenway Farms opened in March.
Photo by: Boston Red Sox
vegetables as part of their meals,” said Chris Knight, manager of facilities, services and planning for the team.

Aramark is the food service provider. The produce goes into salads and side dishes served at Fenway’s premium clubs, and in salads offered from a portable concession cart on Yawkey Way.

The rooftop gardens produce arugula, green beans, broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, eggplant, kale, lettuce, pea shoots, sweet peppers, tomatoes, basil, chives, cilantro, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary and thyme.

California’s Sonoma Raceway, in conjunction with Levy Restaurants, grows tomatoes, zucchini, peppers and fresh herbs in an on-site half-acre garden. The produce is used in salads and sandwiches in a café that Levy operates.

The track also has sheep roaming the venue grounds, eating grass to provide natural land care, and hires people specifically to separate items that can be composted or recycled.

“It goes back to social responsibility,” said Gilbert Verdugo, regional executive chef at Levy. “It’s the way we live now. It’s what’s expected.”

Amalie Arena, home of the Tampa Bay Lightning, converted a rock garden into a hydroponic farm that supplies vegetables and herbs. The produce goes into salads and sandwiches, and is served at in-house restaurants and suites, and in some player meals.

“Patrons are noticing how much more flavorful and tasteful these items are,” said Darryl Benge, arena general manager. “Many of them are happy that we’re growing this locally, which is a better carbon footprint, rather than trucking it in.”

The Colorado Rockies grow team color-matching Purple Viking potatoes in their garden.
Photo by: Aramark
The Colorado Rockies have the 600-square-foot Coors Field GaRden and unveiled team color-matching Purple Viking potatoes this spring. The team, working with Aramark and Colorado State University’s College of Health and Human Sciences, has operated the garden for three years. The produce goes to the ballpark’s Mountain Ranch Club and a build-your-own-salad station called Infield Greens, available to all.

AT&T Park in San Francisco opened its 4,300-square-foot garden in the lower center field area in August 2014. The produce is sold at two concession stands, offering salads, fruit platters, a vegetable sandwich and more.

The Green Sports Alliance will highlight these and other projects at this week’s annual summit in Chicago. It’s all a part of what makes sense from a sustainability standpoint, and what makes sense for fans.

Said Henly: “There’s been a give and take between fans, concessionaires and venues — a real demand for variety and transparency, more local flavor, more familiar brands.”

Bruce Goldberg is a writer in Denver.



More facility facts

At this week’s Green Sports Alliance Summit in Chicago, the alliance will present a game-day food report that examines how sports facilities produce, transport, prepare and dispose of food. The report, in conjunction with the Natural Resources Defense Council, highlights these facts about sports venues:

AT&T Stadium: Thousands of pounds of organic produce from nearby Paul Quinn College’s student-run farm are served to Cowboys fans each year.

Citizens Bank Park: All concession stands serve vegetarian meal options for Phillies fans.

FirstEnergy Stadium: About 10,000 pounds of leftover food is donated each season to the Cleveland Food Bank from Browns games.

Petco Park: All used cooking oil is recycled and donated as biodiesel for local transportation and school buses.

USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center: A total of 180 tons of food waste from U.S. Open fans is composted for local landscaping and farming use.



Up on the roof

There’s a lot more than a tree growing in Brooklyn.

Soon there will be about three acres (135,000 square feet) of grasses, flowers and plants growing on the new green

Photo by: Tom Kaminski / WCBS Chopper 880
roof of the Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets and the relocating New York Islanders. The project is slated to be finished this fall.

The green roof carries advantages, holding water so that it doesn’t get discharged into New York City’s overworked sewer system, absorbing sound from the busy Brooklyn crossroads of Atlantic and Flatbush, and cutting energy costs by keeping heat in during the winter and cooling the arena in the summer.

The plants first were nurtured at a nursery in Connecticut. “That means they are mature plants, winter-hardened, are hearty with a well-rooted system and should adapt extraordinarily well to living on the roof,” said Linda Chiarelli, deputy director for construction for Forest City Ratner Cos., developer of Barclays Center.

Hunt Construction built the green roof. The job required 1,311 tons of structural steel and 515 tons of joists and decking to create a new support structure on top of the existing arena roof.

— Bruce Goldberg




The Atlanta Falcons are pointing to LEED Platinum for their new stadium. It would be a first for a big league facility to earn the highest level of certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s program.

“We want to raise the bar,” said Scott Jenkins, general manager of the $1.4 billion stadium and board chair for the Green Sports Alliance, a group advocating green practices in facility development and operations.

“It’s too early to say where that bar’s going to be,” Jenkins said, “but right from the beginning, our intent is to get as many points as we can get. Platinum is what we aspire to. I won’t know until [the stadium opens in 2017] whether we get there or not. I feel good about where we’re tracking.”

Solar panels above a parking garage are part of the design.
Photo by: Atlanta Falcons
To this point, Jenkins said he feels “100 percent confident we’ll achieve Gold.” Getting to the highest level, though, will come down to maximizing LEED points tied to the site, water and energy, said Chris DeVolder, sustainable design leader for HOK, the stadium’s architect.

On the energy front, the stadium has a retractable roof, and it can be “naturally ventilated” when the roof is open, saving energy and providing a nicer fan experience, Jenkins said. The Falcons intend to keep the roof open as often as possible for both NFL and MLS games.

“We can open it and let it breathe,” Jenkins said. “It is more efficient. We want to be an outdoor stadium.”

In addition, the Falcons will stand out for installing LED lighting through virtually the entire stadium, including back-of-house spaces and field lighting. In general, LED lights use half the energy of conventional lighting and last 10 times longer.

Across the board in all leagues, the LED sports lighting trend is gaining momentum as teams and facilities recognize the cost savings connected to the technology. There’s less glare and during an event, LED lights can be turned on and off instantly, which increases the team’s ability to upgrade entertainment productions, Jenkins said.

“We’re lucky in that lighting is changing,” he said. “At some point, people won’t even talk about LEDs because

everything will be LED. Fortunately, we’re about two years from opening and are able to take advantage of the innovation. It’s a no-brainer to invest in it.”

Installing LED lights costs 25 percent to 40 percent more than traditional metal halide lights. The savings in electricity and maintenance result in a payback of five to seven years depending on how much the lights are used, Jenkins said.

The Falcons’ project is on track to achieve all water-related credits under the LEED program, which would be a first for a sports facility, team officials said. The list includes water efficiency inside the stadium, and rainwater harvesting and on-site reuse for irrigation and the cooling towers tied to the building’s HVAC system.

The stadium site sits in the Proctor Creek watershed, a tributary of the Chattahoochee River in western Atlanta. It’s similar to other big cities that have developed over time that “just kind of ignored the natural water system and paved over a lot of land and built a lot of buildings,” Jenkins said. As a result, it was critical for the Falcons to form a comprehensive storm water management plan to guard against flooding.

When it opens, the stadium will have the ability to capture 2 million gallons of storm water, most of it through a 1 million-gallon underground vault. Separately, a 680,000-gallon cistern above ground will capture rainwater to reuse for the cooling towers.

Jenkins can point to industry colleagues in drought-stricken California as an example for the importance of those massive structures in water conservation.

“Water shortages are generally regional, and it wasn’t long ago Atlanta was in a severe drought and the lakes were in serious trouble,” he said. “We’re blessed now to not be dealing with that. But water costs a fair amount of money, and who knows when the next drought is. The solutions make sense in an area that isn’t suffering because of the economics and just being environmentally responsible. It’s a high priority for us.”

For the Falcons, another part of the water story is edible landscaping tied to 1,300 square feet of planter beds and berries and fruit trees planned for the site. The small urban farm is part of the team’s educational program to encourage children to eat healthier foods.

“We will have 65 percent more points of sale than the Georgia Dome with more cooking capacity,” Jenkins said. “We have the infrastructure, the next phase is to develop menus. We’re going to look to develop locally sourced food. We can do some of that on site.”

The downtown site earns valuable LEED points in the transportation category. It’s sandwiched between two stops on the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority rail line. Currently, 25 percent of Falcons fans travel by MARTA to games at the dome.

Team officials expect an even higher percentage of soccer fans to use MARTA — drawing from a younger crowd going to more weekday games with fewer tailgating opportunities. An expansion MLS team will begin play at the stadium in the spring of 2017.

The parking garage adjacent to the stadium will contain 4,000 solar panels, generating renewable energy. Despite state legislation in May eliminating $5,000 tax breaks for owners of electric cars, the Falcons plan to install 38 charging stations for those vehicles, Jenkins said.

On the sponsorship side, the Falcons are in discussion with potential partners tied to recycling and other green initiatives. Sustainability has resonated with local corporations and it’s helping to drive value for future deals, Jenkins said. To date, no deals have been announced.

The Sacramento Kings’ strategy for developing a green arena was a layup. The city stands out as the capital of California, a state with some of the nation’s most stringent sustainability requirements for construction.

Every year, Sacramento ranks among the country’s top markets for green technology, and the NBA’s newest facility falls in line with the city’s leadership model, according to Kings President Chris Granger.

Giant glass doors at the entrance will play a role in the arena’s ventilation system.
Photo by: Sacramento Kings
“If it matters to Sacramento, it matters to us,” he said. “We went through countless focus groups and surveys as we thought about the building and what matters to people. Very clearly, sustainability was the No. 1 driver of our city and our fans.”

Working closely with arena architect AECOM, Golden 1 Center, named for a statewide credit union, is expected to earn LEED Gold certification after it opens in October 2016. The $477 million arena will be “uniquely Sacramento,” celebrating local culture and the environment, Granger said.

Beyond the typical green elements such as low-flow toilets and solar displays, though, project developers took the next step in sustainability with a displacement ventilation system, tied to heating and cooling the building.

It’s the first of its kind at a major league facility, said Alastair MacGregor, a vice president with AECOM and the

firm’s leader for high performance buildings in North America.

It works like this: the system’s air conditioning unit flows from beneath the seating bowl to deliver a more efficient method of cooling the building’s interior. In most arenas, cool air comes from the top of the building, forcing its way down to the bowl where it collides with warmer air created by the body heat of thousands of fans. Essentially, the two sources of air flow push against each other, wasting energy and resulting in a less efficient system, MacGregor said.

By comparison, the displacement ventilation system, powered by a smaller chiller, provides cooler air at a lower velocity with fewer electrical fans required. The system is designed to provide a better environment for arena patrons, both in thermal comfort and air quality.

For smaller events such as high school and college graduations using half the lower bowl, the system’s design has the flexibility to cool only the space being used, thus extending its efficiency, MacGregor said.

“How many times have you been to a sports event and the venue is really cold when you arrive, and when you leave, it’s on the verge of being uncomfortably warm?” he said. “The reason for that is the HVAC systems pre-cool the buildings to take advantage of that five- to seven-degree swing.”

It’s something the Kings steered away from in arena development by embracing a new model on that piece of design.

Granger said, “We think it’s a really smart way [to condition the building], and a more comfortable way rather than just blowing cold air at people.”

There’s a premium attached to the technology, with additional duct work required over traditional systems, but the Kings expect to recoup those expenses long term through energy efficiency and fan comfort, MacGregor said.

The $477 million arena is taking shape as it moves toward an October 2016 opening.
Photo by: Sacramento Kings
A weather pattern unique to Sacramento and the arena’s grand entrance will integrate with the ventilation system.
At night, a weather phenomenon called the Delta breeze, a sea breeze coming in from the southwest, cools the city by 10 to 15 degrees. The intent is to capture those breezes through smart use of the monster glass doors forming the arena’s primary entrance — measuring 60 feet tall and 150 feet wide — to help reduce the team’s reliance on the overall ventilation system, Granger said.

Separately, the Kings gain LEED points through recycling and reusing 99 percent of debris tied to the demolition of the old downtown mall, site of the new arena. The demolition produced 100,000 tons of material, some reused to help build Golden 1 Center.

Water conservation is a no-brainer in a state going through a severe drought over the past several years. Project officials expect the arena to save 2 million gallons of water annually through various measures, MacGregor said.

One example is the arena plaza outside the building. From a landscaping perspective, planters are placed strategically around the arena to capture and recycle rainwater, “when we do have it,” Granger said.

Moving from Sleep Train Arena near the airport on the outskirts of Sacramento to a downtown arena provides multiple benefits by reducing vehicle miles traveled and related greenhouse gas emissions per attendee by about 50 percent.


The green discussion at U.S. Bank Stadium starts with the innovative roof design at the Minnesota Vikings’ new facility.

When it opens in July 2016, the $1 billion stadium will feature the largest translucent roof in North America. To achieve the clear look, the roof incorporates ETFE, a plastic-like material originally developed by DuPont 40 years ago. Over the past decade, ETFE has been used for roofs at the Cube aquatics center at the Beijing Olympics and the Allianz Arena soccer stadium in Munich.

ETFE is lightweight, durable and resists corrosion. For going green, it’s energy efficient, cost effective and recyclable, according to Birdair, a supplier of roof covers for stadiums.

The translucent roof at U.S. Bank Stadium will give fans the experience of being outdoors.
Photo by: HKS; Minnesota Vikings
Architect HKS and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority are targeting LEED certification for the stadium, and the roof will help it gain points in the energy category.

Using ETFE will create the experience of being outdoors without feeling the full effect of the elements, so there is also potential for the roof to earn points for innovation in design, said John Hutchings, HKS’s sports principal-in-charge of the Vikings’ project.

“The idea behind it was to use a material that allows you — as opposed to the hermetically sealed Metrodome where you couldn’t see whether it was a blue sky or a cloudy day — to see exactly what the weather is like,” Hutchings said.

In the NFL’s harshest winter climate, the sun can still shine brightly on a clear day, so heat buildup inside the stadium is an issue, said Brian Wolfe, an associate with HKS and the firm’s sustainable design coordinator.

The key to regulating the elements indoors is something called thermal fritting, an etching design element layered over ETFE that reflects the sun’s rays away from the roof. The fritting helps with both heat prevention and heat retention, depending on the time of the year. HKS studied the sun’s movement over the course of the day to determine the maximum location of the fritting patterns, Wolfe said.

What’s just as important as ETFE is the roof’s sloping design to minimize snow buildup. The Metrodome, the

Vikings’ old home, featured a roof supported by an air-compression system, and it suffered multiple collapses from heavy snows.

For the new stadium, the roof’s sharp angles, combined with the ETFE technology, should “help us shed snow very efficiently,” said Michele Kelm-Helgen, chair for the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, the Vikings’ landlord and stadium owner.

In terms of cost, on a project where the Vikings have picked up the tab on several cost overruns since the budget was approved, having a fixed roof saves about $100 million compared with retractable roofs like those in use at AT&T Stadium and Lucas Oil Stadium. HKS designed those stadiums as well.

The lightweight ETFE technology results in a roof weighing 2,000 to 3,000 tons less compared with the roof at the Indianapolis Colts’ facility, and with a reduction in lighting requirements over the hard roof at Lucas Oil Stadium, Hutchings said.

In the end, the ETFE roof presents a sophisticated yet efficient design, resulting in one of the most cost-effective structures in the NFL, said Mark Williams, director of HKS’s sports and entertainment practice.

“On the exterior side, it’s a very recognizable, branded component of design,” Williams said. “There will be no doubt when people see that image that that’s Minnesota’s stadium. It will be very identifiable.”

Apart from the roof, stadium developers focused on stormwater management, energy efficiency and public transportation to form additional green elements.

In Minnesota, where flooding can be a major issue during spring thaws, the new stadium is connected to a new stormwater filtration system with thousands of feet of underground pipe outside the facility. It’s designed to collect and treat up to 1.1 million gallons of water (based on the worst-case flood scenario) before diverting it back into the ground, compared with piping it directly into the city’s sewer system, Kelm-Helgen said.

“That’s a big part of the story for Minnesota,” Wolfe said. “I know it’s not going to be one [green element] that people are going to see, but I think the benefits of it are huge to the local water system and the Mississippi River. Storm water and melted snow will be cleaned before it hits the river.”

On the energy side, project officials are using LED sports lighting in the design. The Vikings are covering the cost of the $1.2 million upgrade. The annual savings from using a higher quality light that burns brighter and uses less energy is expected to run in the range of $400,000 a year, authority officials said.

“When the design of the stadium was initiated, LED sports lighting wasn’t up to the level needed for pro facilities,” Wolfe said. “It’s come a long way, and we have been able to incorporate it. The authority and the Vikings felt it was worth the effort.”

Two new light-rail lines will pass by the stadium, and the authority expects more than 30 percent of attendees for all events will arrive by train, Kelm-Helgen said. The stadium also will connect to the city’s pedestrian skyway system linking hotels, parking ramps and residences.

“We have over eight miles of skyways … and 40,000 residents that live in downtown Minneapolis, so all those people will be able to walk any time of year [indoors] to the stadium,” she said.

The University of Colorado’s new football training facility and renovations tied to Folsom Field are on track to become one of the greenest projects in college sports when it opens in August.

The $160 million project, led by the design-build team of Populous and Mortenson, could reach LEED Platinum, the highest level of certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s program. As of early June, the LEED checklist tentatively stood at 78 points, with two more points required for Platinum status, said Jeremy Krug, a senior associate at Populous involved with the development. It would stand out as Populous’ first LEED Platinum project of any kind.

Work including this new addition to Folsom Field could lead to LEED Platinum certification.
Photo by: Populous; Mortenson
Project officials won’t know whether they get to LEED’s highest level until after the practice facility is occupied and the operational systems can be monitored.

The project site sits fewer than 60 feet south of Boulder Creek, a waterway that overflowed in September 2013 during a major flood that killed eight people. Because of the devastation, it was critical for the project to manage stormwater runoff and avoid encroaching on the creek area.

For going green, 20 percent of all building materials are recycled content and many items were sourced within 500 miles of Boulder to gain a regional material credit.

At the practice facility, low-flow shower heads and other sustainable features will reduce indoor water use by more than 40 percent compared with buildings of a similar size, with 30 percent energy cost savings over the entire project, Krug said.

The roof of the practice facility has 45,000 square feet of solar roof panels to both reduce and produce energy for that building. Light and plumbing fixtures tied to occupancy sensors will come in handy because student athletes have a tendency to forget to turn off the lights and the water faucet, he said.

“The thing that’s different about a training facility than a campus building is it’s used 24/7 by coaches and players,”

Krug said. “A training facility uses a lot more energy than most people would think. There are high costs and infrastructure for video systems and a lot more locker rooms and showers when you talk about water use. We’re actually seeing a lot more focus [by colleges across the board] on being sustainable, because ultimately, these costs are coming out of athletic funds to pay for building it and to run it in the future.”

All told, the project spans about 350,000 square feet of new construction and renovations to existing buildings. The new indoor practice facility is connected to the Champions Center, an existing building overlooking the stadium on the northeast side. The Champions Center will house new locker rooms, weight rooms, meeting rooms and staff offices, plus a high-performance sports center and a public rehabilitation facility.

The project extends to create several new premium-seat spaces as part of renovating the Dal Ward Athletic Center behind the stadium’s north end zone, a building where the football operations and support facilities are currently housed. The expansion of Dal Ward includes 40 four-seat loge boxes flanking 560 club seats outdoors, supported by a new indoor club behind those seats.

In the Champions Center, the architect designed space for 352 bench seats and 426 bar stools overlooking the field.
Inside that building, the food service for the football team’s training table has been upgraded to a full-service catering kitchen. A new rooftop terrace on the Champions Center can accommodate about 600 patrons with spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains.

The sustainability concept extends to the flexibility to use the new premium spaces for special events on non-game
days. Colorado Athletic Director Rick George, with whom Populous has a relationship dating to his tenure as president of the Texas Rangers, had input on the multi-use aspect, Krug said.

“Rick thinks about revenue generation,” he said. “We really stretched the thought process as far as club spaces and the rooftop terrace, and the ability to sell them as event spaces every day during the year. One of the most important recruiting aspects is to … sell the Boulder campus and the University of Colorado.”

The Edmonton Oilers have a mandate to develop the NHL’s first LEED Silver arena in Canada, doing so in a market dominated by the oil drilling industry.

The region’s chief economic engine provides an interesting backdrop to the project. To their credit, though, the Oilers committed to setting the bar for a green arena per their deal with the city of Edmonton, which is financing most of the $480 million facility.

Related development around Rogers Place has grown to $1.8 billion.
Photo by: Jeff Nash / Oilers Entertainment Group
Meanwhile, Rogers Place, which is slated to open in the fall of 2016, has already achieved its goal of being a catalyst for redeveloping downtown Edmonton. And with each new neighboring project announced, the Oilers have convinced others to go down the same green path.

As it stands now, related development has grown from an original estimate of $200 million to a whopping $1.8 billion, a number covering both new construction and renovated buildings, said Chris DeVolder, sustainable leader for HOK, the arena’s architect.

“It’s really been a success to date,” DeVolder said. “Everyone was hoping it would be a catalyst, but I don’t think anyone had an idea of how much development would spawn out of it. We’ve heard from other companies that the arena has set the bar for sustainability. From that respect, the idea that any project influences others from an energy efficiency standpoint, alternative transportation with [light rail transit] and pedestrian areas, is really unprecedented, at least that I’m aware of.”

The site of Rogers Place was originally part of the Canadian National Railway system as well as a tannery before it became a surface parking lot. It was a brownfield site that required environmental cleanup before arena construction started, said Shaun Mason, senior director for Icon Venue Group, the firm serving as the owner’s representative. In that respect alone, the arena has been a tremendous upgrade for the city’s downtown district, he said.

Rexall Place, the Oilers’ current home, is part of the Northlands, a sports and entertainment complex outside of

town.

“I live in Edmonton after moving here three years ago for the project,” Mason said. “No offense to downtown, but it didn’t really have a whole lot going for it. A lot of surface parking lots, derelict lots, not much density … right there in the heart of oil country, which of course is not necessarily lauded for green initiatives. I think it was really a good union of a project team in general that wanted to incorporate these green principles in a city that truly focused on them with the [LEED] Silver mandate.”

Mason knows what it takes to develop a green hockey arena. Five years ago, before he was hired by Icon, he worked for Pittsburgh contractor PJ Dick, which teamed with Hunt Construction Group to build Consol Energy Center, the NHL’s first LEED Gold arena.

In Edmonton, Mason is overseeing a project for the Oilers tied to an extensive public transportation network that will feature seven light rail stops within walking distance of the arena once a new line is completed. One light rail station will connect at the facility’s northwest corner.

The arena will have charging stations for electric vehicles. The oil industry has created a lot of wealth locally, and it is not uncommon to see motorists driving Teslas around town, Mason said.

Those who live and work in the downtown district will be able to walk to the arena. In addition, a citywide trail will connect to the arena from points farther out.

Edmonton was among Canada’s first markets to introduce citywide recycling, and to date, about 93 percent of all construction waste has been recycled or reused elsewhere, DeVolder. It’s close to what’s being done in Sacramento (see related story).

“The reality is most of the big sports contractors are doing that as a matter of course,” he said. “It’s part of their culture.”

Energy companies have given their marketing efforts some juice by using sports to tout sustainable energy and energy efficiency offerings.

Chief among these companies are NRG Energy, which for years has been the most active energy company in terms of U.S. sports rights, and Constellation, which in December signed the category’s only league-level deal among the four big league sports. The two companies, however, have taken different approaches to sports property sponsorship and activation on a national level.

NRG highlights solar and wind turbines at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
Photo by: NRG
NRG’s sports marketing push has involved deals with eight NFL teams in markets it has identified as most fertile, particularly for its new residential solar energy push. NRG in the past year and a half has acquired several companies and exercised an internal financing option to create a solar offering aimed at customers in California and the Northeast, where the technology is the most economically feasible.

The company’s most visible sports partnership is its stadium naming-rights deal with the Houston Texans, which its subsidiary Reliant signed in 2000 for a then-record $300 million over 31 years. And while the company continues to strengthen its hold on that market, it has also partnered with NFL teams and facilities in other regions that better suit its solar push.

“The push for driving consumers and driving real lead-gen for a mass market audience really came along with that business,” said Sicily Dickenson, NRG senior vice president and CMO.

Dickenson said the company in recent years has spent a “large chunk” of its nine-figure annual marketing budget on these initiatives, which in addition to traditional, social and digital marketing assets include stadium infrastructure projects that showcase its sustainable energy capabilities. The additions have included swaths of solar panels, micro wind turbines, LED lighting, charging stations for electric vehicles and solar-powered phone chargers.

The projects enhance the game-day experience for fans, provide hospitality for potential corporate clients, and show

both groups how the company can provide money-saving, green solutions for them. “We found a [business-to-business] and a [business-to-consumer] way to reach people,” Dickenson said.

Contrary to NRG’s market-by-market approach, Constellation in December made its most significant sports investment yet, signing on with the NHL as the league’s official energy provider. The unprecedented league-level energy provider deal came on the heels of the NHL revealing its energy usage in its first Sustainability Report.

Following up on that effort, Constellation enabled the league to offset its estimated carbon footprint for the 2014-15 season by providing renewable energy certificates and carbon offsets. Both the NHL and Constellation declined to disclose the cost of the counterbalancing effort.

For Constellation, the payoff is twofold. From a business-to-business perspective, Constellation gets the opportunity to go into facilities around the league, audit their energy efficiency and, ultimately, reach service agreements at the club or facility level.

“[It’s] going in and saying, ‘Hey, we offer this suite of services. … We can lower your energy use from your ice plant. We can lower your energy use from your HVAC system by putting in variable frequency drives, by doing a slew of things,’” said Omar Mitchell, NHL director of sustainability. “They are our official consultants to help us get into the arenas to talk about that and to tell the arenas how they can do that and how Constellation can help them.”

Bruce Stewart, Constellation senior vice president and CMO, said he expects to finalize several efficiency deals as a result of the league partnership before the start of the 2015-16 season. Once that happens, Constellation plans to use the results of those efforts to show other businesses and residential customers how they can save, too.

Alex Silverman writes for sister publication SportsBusiness Daily.

Since Levi’s Stadium opened last July, the vast majority of the water used by the facility has flowed through purple pipes. The color designates them as channels carrying recycled water, which the 49ers say consistently has accounted for 70 percent of all water usage during the past year.

While sports properties and facilities across the country are making efforts to conserve natural resources, there is a particular emphasis on the cause west of the Rocky Mountains. Approximately 72 percent of that region, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center, is experiencing some degree of drought, including 17 percent categorized as “extreme” or “exceptional” drought. A whopping 71 percent of California, more than any other state, falls under the two most severe designations.

In response, sports properties in the area are taking steps to reduce their own water usage and to generate awareness of how others can do the same.

Even since opening a stadium given LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council, the 49ers have continued to find ways to conserve even more water.

Displays at the Waste Management Phoenix Open highlighted the need for water conservation.
Photo by: Waste Management Phoenix Open
“We’ve got a leg up on everybody, but even still we want to be mindful. If we can conserve that recycled water, why don’t we?,” said Jim Mercurio, 49ers vice president of stadium operations and security.

The team in May installed a 23,000-square-foot artificial turf “track” around its playing surface, which Mercurio expects will reduce water usage on the field by 20 percent. In addition, Levi’s Stadium fundamentally has changed the way its staff goes about cleaning seating areas. “We’ve made a switch now from three-quarter-inch lines to power washing, which takes almost half the amount of water that we’re using to clean this building,” Mercurio said.

The difference between the two methods is substantial. While a typical hose puts out between six to 10 gallons per minute, a pressure washer only uses between two to five. In the case of cleaning Levi’s Stadium, Mercurio said that while the hoses used about 16,000 gallons per hour, the power washers use approximately 3,000 gallons per hour.

At a golf tournament 750 miles southeast, the organizers of the Waste Management Phoenix Open also have taken up the cause of water conservation. Golf courses are notorious for requiring an inordinate amount of water; a typical golf course can require 100,000 to 1 million gallons per week in the summer, according to the Alliance for Water Efficiency.

While tournament organizers have sought to limit usage — water used for cooking and cleaning is reused in portable toilets, for instance — they revealed in their most recent sustainability report that the 2014 event consumed 76,320 gallons of fresh water, about a 37 percent increase from the previous year. An additional 16,342 gallons were sold as bottled water.

But last year, title sponsor Waste Management began purchasing Water Restoration Certificates from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation to offset water consumed by each year’s event. Money raised through the sale of WRCs is invested in projects designed to restore the equivalent amount of water to rivers, streams and wetlands. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation reviews all WRC flow restoration projects.

On the education and awareness front, the tournament this year began sponsoring the Bonneville Environmental Foundation’s Change The Course campaign, through which attendees and fans at home pledged online or via text message to save water. For each pledge, Waste Management purchased WRCs to restore 1,000 gallons of water.

On the tournament grounds, fans could pose for photos behind “mug boards,” each depicting a different scenario with the theme, “Life Without Water Is Awkward.” The cutout scenes included a person trying to raft down rapids, take a shower or go swimming, each without water. The funny photos made for social media fodder, creating more awareness of the campaign.

In addition to the Phoenix Open, three NHL teams — the Anaheim Ducks, Tampa Bay Lightning and Minnesota Wild — sponsor the Change The Course campaign. The Ducks, based in the heart of the drought-affected region, also have worked with the city of Anaheim to disseminate water conservation messages on the team’s various marquees, freeway billboards and in-arena screens.

“We have not only an obligation but an opportunity to use ourselves as a voice for something as important as this,” said Tim Ryan, Ducks executive vice president and COO.

At the Honda Center, the Ducks have implemented several water-saving measures, including reduced-flow shower heads in locker rooms, cutbacks on landscaping and power washing, and smaller eight-ounce glasses of water with food, only upon request.

“Everybody is doing everything they can to be diligent about water conservation, and what it is for us is a constant monitoring process,” Ryan said. “Until we get a significant amount of rainfall, it’s going to remain top of mind.”

At the league level, the NHL runs its own Gallons For Goals campaign, which involves the purchase of WRCs to restore 1,000 gallons for each goal scored over the course of the season. That totaled more than 6.5 million gallons for the 2014-15 season.

Alex Silverman writes for sister publication SportsBusiness Daily.

The Pac-12 Conference this week is announcing that it has joined the Green Sports Alliance, following the conference’s 12 schools, which were already members.

As members of the GSA, the Pac-12 and its schools have committed to sustainability initiatives and to engaging fans

and communities in the process.

“Our member universities have shown great leadership to minimize their athletics departments’ negative impact on the environment and promote green habits to their fans and campuses at large,” said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott in a statement released by the GSA. “We as a conference are thrilled to join the Alliance as we continue to push college sports in a modern, global and progressive direction.”

The addition of the conference increases the opportunities for schools to share best practices on initiatives such as waste reduction, solar power, water efficiency and student-led efforts. For example, the schools recently completed the inaugural Pac-12 Zero Waste Challenge with the support of the GSA.