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Volume 23 No. 13
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Facilities try out their green thumb

On-site gardens continue to take root as sports facilities tout sustainability efforts and cater to fan desires

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