Leadership / 04.19.22
Stadiums, Arenas and Other Venues Move Toward a More Sustainable Future
Sustainability has become a best practice across a wide variety of industries. Not only has the paying public become more environmentally conscious, but “going green” often makes sense from a financial standpoint. So, it’s no surprise that stadiums, arenas and other live event venues have jumped on the bandwagon.
Brad Mayne, President and CEO of the International Association of Venue Managers, says, “With climate change, there are more people who are aware of the things that they do that negatively affect weather patterns, the environment, everyday life. Most of our younger folks have grown up with school educating them about sustainability. So, the younger generation has expectations that we become better stewards of the planet.”
Among the top reasons why building sustainable stadiums, arenas, convention centers and other live event venues promotes a healthier environment is water preservation. Such facilities need a lot of water for consumption and cleaning, among other uses. When considering how to reduce water consumption, green initiatives such as rainwater harvesting and recycling are being embraced.
Pollstar reports that a prime example is Co-op Live Manchester, touted by OVG International as Britain’s largest capacity indoor entertainment venue. Once completed, the venue will recycle all rainfall via a rainwater harvesting system. Rainwater will be utilized to flush toilets, water the green spaces around the venue and more. It will also be the country’s first all-electric arena. The structure has been designed to operate without any gas power, with over 95,000 square feet of rooftop solar panels powering day-to-day activity.
Energy preservation is indeed another reason to build sustainable venues and retrofit existing ones. The Johan Cruuff Arena, home to Europe’s Ajax Football Club, is powered by more than 4,200 solar panels and a wind turbine. The arena’s main facility is equipped with an amazing energy-generating escalator, and the venue also reuses rainwater by collecting it on the roof.
Then, there are the financial benefits. By choosing greener and longer-lasting materials, environmentally friendly projects will be cheaper in the long run when the maintenance and operation of the venues are considered. Moreover, the value of the project can actually increase over time, while the costs of water, energy, maintenance and insurance premiums can decrease.
“The challenge is the capital investment,” Mayne says. “Most of our venues are municipally owned and operated. A lot of the professional venues are managed by the sports team, but they’re owned by the municipality. The biggest challenge is always finding the money to do the capital improvements.”
Sustainability has been a key driver in venue management across Europe. Last fall, Pollstar reports, Britain’s live music sector launched an industry climate campaign with a commitment to reach net-zero emissions by 2030. Led by LIVE Green, the sustainability unit of live music umbrella trade body LIVE, the campaign reportedly “builds on significant efforts across the sector to boost sustainability, ranging from the end of single-use plastic at festivals to sector-wide efforts to reduce the environmental impact of touring.” The group has been identifying and signposting how live music businesses can accelerate their transition to a low-carbon future, with a roadmap that’s in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Earlier this month, Populous announced it has been chosen as the architect for a new multi-use, climate-neutral event arena in Munich, Germany. Bavaria-based SWMUNICH Real Estate GmbH will plan, build, and manage the multi-use concert and convention center, backed by over 300 million euros of private sector investment. Several thousand solar panels atop the 20,000-seat arena’s roof and around the site, coupled with the potential for geothermal energy and district heating, will ensure that the energy for operating the arena can be generated on-site.
Venues across the United States have certainly not been lagging. Boston University News Service is reporting that the Boston Red Sox has partnered with Aspiration, a California-based financial firm, to make historic Fenway Park carbon neutral by including costs in every ticket without affecting prices. The funds will go toward the purchase of carbon credits used to offset pollution from the ballpark and fans.
The Red Sox organization has been among MLB’s leaders in developing sustainable practices. For instance, Fenway holds the distinction of being the first MLB stadium to install solar thermal panels. The panels replace 37% of gas used to heat water, keeping the park from producing 18 tons of carbon emissions annually.
By earning platinum Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification, Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta is regarded as one of America’s most sustainable sports venues. It is equipped with LED lighting, boasts around 4,000 solar panels on its rooftop, and has its own storm water management system that enables the stadium to store up to 2 million gallons on site. The venue even provides electric vehicle charging and a bicycle valet program.
Not to be outdone, Levi’s Stadium is one of the most sustainable buildings in the city of San Francisco. It has implemented its own materials procurement program and has been able to commit to local food sourcing.
Mayne is the former President and CEO of MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Under his leadership, that venue made big strides in the area of sustainability. “We took some major steps to lower our carbon footprint,” he says. “We even purchased equipment that enabled us to turn waste into fertilizer for our trees, gardens and grass areas to lower that footprint. We didn’t have trucks coming to pick up our recycling, because we were handling it ourselves.”
Big-name companies are also getting involved. In June of 2020, Pollstar recalls, Amazon obtained the naming rights to Oak View Group's National Hockey League’s Seattle Kraken home arena. Soon after, it was officially named Climate Pledge Arena, having been designated the first carbon-neutral venue fully powered by renewable electricity. Rather than having it bear its company name, Amazon instead opted to promote a brand image of sustainability.
More recently, according to Marketing Dive, Anheuser-Busch InBev united the NFL and MLB to form the National Recycling League, a multi-sport partnership to reduce game-day waste. As of press time, more than 10 teams have agreed to take part in the newly created recycling effort, including the Houston Astros, San Diego Padres, Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals. The program’s launch was timed to the start of the current MLB season with fans packing ballparks again after two years of COVID-19 restrictions.
Also at the start of this baseball season, Facility Executive reports, WinCup Inc. partnered with the New York Yankees and Legends Hospitality to provide its non-petroleum, non-forest-based, bio-plastic phade® straw to concessions stands throughout Yankee Stadium. The straw is certified for composting commercially. Its introduction at Yankee Stadium furthers that landmark venue’s globally recognized sustainability initiatives, including its commitment to achieving zero waste. Through the efforts of ballpark staff, fans, and the team’s recycling and composting partners, nearly 85% of Yankee Stadium’s total waste is diverted from landfills and incinerators.
Even individual artists and music groups are getting into the act. According to Nature World News, Coldplay is implementing a 12-point strategy to reduce its carbon impact. The move comes two years after they vowed not to tour unless they could do so in a more environmentally sustainable manner. The band’s next tour will be partly powered by a dance floor that generates electricity as fans jump.
Mayne concludes, “When sustainability first started, everybody was pretty much on their own to try and figure it out. But many industries have since stepped up and created the products and resources to assist. Anyone who says, ‘It’s too hard’ — the fact of the matter is, if you are doing it the right way, it’s not any more expensive. In fact, it can save you money.”
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Tags: Leadership , Sustainability