When we talk about sporting arenas, the conversation is usually about the team’s athletic ability or if they’re going to have a good season. But now, in an era where the 2016 Super Bowl was widely touted as the greenest yet (thanks to the incredibly efficient Levi’s Stadium), the arena itself is taking the spotlight when it comes to energy efficient and sustainable practices. In this section, Kate West and Emily Torem explore how Boston’s Fenway Park, Husky Stadium at the University of Washington in Seattle, and the new Golden 1 Center in Sacramento are making headlines using state-of-the-art resources and design that combines nature and technology to create a fan experience like no other.
Each of these complexes is a member of the Green Sports Alliance, an organization that “leverages the cultural and market influence of sports to promote healthy, sustainable communities where we live and play” by inspiring sports leagues, teams, venues, their partners, and millions of fans to embrace renewable energy, healthy food, recycling, water efficiency, and much more. GSA boasts more than 345 sports teams and venues from 20 different leagues and 14 countries. Here, we look at how three of them are using fiscally beneficial sustainable practices and setting a new standard in architectural design for large multi-purpose facilities.
AFFILIATION: SACRAMENTO KINGS
LOCATION: SACRAMENTO, CA
The NBA’s Sacramento Kings will soon be known for more than basketball when they open the 2016-17 season this October at the world’s greenest sports and entertainment venue. Golden 1 Center will be 100% solar powered, provide locally grown food—reflecting Sacramento’s farm-to-fork culture—and become a global model for an indoor/outdoor arena that not only sets a new standard in arena architecture but demonstrates how innovative design can attract new development to a region. Kings owner and chairman Vivek Ranadive calls it “the 21st Century Coliseum.”
The inspiration for the design, created by AECOM, comes from the Sacramento region and lifestyle. “The design combines high-performance sustainability and metaphorical inspiration, for instance, from the granite walls of the Sierra Nevada,” says Rob Rothblatt, design principle. “Residents here really feel the power of nature—they like to hike, be outdoors, and they’re at the center of the farm-to-fork movement.” Golden 1 Center reflects that sentiment with five aircraft hangar doors that literally allow the outside in. And to control the temperature, a state-of-the-art temperature displacement system was designed instead of traditional top-down air conditioning. “This puts out air under the seats down to the court, keeping people comfortable much more efficiently,” Rothblatt says. “We can also keep the aircraft hangar doors open for hours, taking advantage of cool Delta breezes, and maintain a constant temperature and humidity on the court.” It’s all powered by a combination of 3,300 SPI solar panels on the arena’s roof and electricity from a new solar farm near Rancho Seco. This will make Golden 1 Center the first indoor sports arena in the world to derive 100% of its power from solar—all sourced within 50 miles of the venue.
While 300 days of sunshine are good for solar, it can be bad news for an arena that incorporates glass windows throughout. In an effort to diffuse the sunlight, fritted glass windows were installed and Solera Windows used around the practice court facility. “The Solera glass allows plenty of daylight to come in without the heat radiation,” Rothblatt says. These greening efforts are estimated to reduce the arena’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2,000 tons annually.
The team has even committed to a charter of 10 guiding principles that will help them educate fans on sustainability and nutrition, reduce their impact on the environment, and benefit the region. The charter calls for a reduction in food waste by donating left over concessions to local food pantries and sourcing 90% of the food and beverages prepared at the arena from local farms and producers within 150 miles. All of this stems from a partnership with the National Resources Defense Council and the Green Sports Alliance to change the way sports teams think about arena food and the environment.
It’s a combination of sustainability, architecture, and vision that is transforming a once underused three-block mall into a hub for entertainment and activity. During the demolition of the former mall, 100,000 tons of waste was recycled, which represents 99% of the material from the mall. The attraction of this arena has been the springboard for hotels, shops, and apartments aiming to implement similar sustainable and environmentally friendly energy plans.
AFFILIATION: BOSTON RED SOX
LOCATION: BOSTON, MA
One of America’s oldest sports stadiums, Fenway Park—home of the Boston Red Sox, is also one of its greenest. Since beginning its greening initiatives in 2008, this Green Sports Alliance member has partnered with the National Resources Defense Council to implement a variety of environmental improvements, including a rooftop garden for use in stadium kitchens and local communities, as well as 28 solar panels, which help heat water throughout the facility and divert 37% of the gas traditionally used in the process. More recently, Fenway has done away with paper towels and made the switch to XLERATOR Hand Dryers, shrinking the park’s annual carbon footprint as well as its budget.
One of the most common misconceptions about “greening” venues is that green technology has to be costly upfront—sometimes over the years as well. According to William Gagnon, vice president of marketing at Excel Dryer, hand dryers help facilities save, on average, 95% of what they were spending on paper products, as well as the necessary maintenance and delivery costs. At Fenway, the annual savings were actually $83,000, or 97% of what they had previously spent. In addition, they fully recouped their upfront installation and unit costs within 12 months. Chris Knight, senior manager of facility services and planning at Fenway, recalls presenting the cost/saving estimates during the XLERATOR Hand Dryer project proposal, and finding it to be an easy sell. “It helped us gain credibility internally to our accounting and finance departments, to prove that we can not only green our organization, but that it will save us money in the long run,” Knight says.
Benefits of Fenway’s move to XLERATOR dryers exceed fiscal savings, extending to hospitality and general safety at games and events. “The improvement of the fan experience as a whole is the most important benefit XLERATOR dryers offer to facilities like Fenway,” Knight says. “The fan and visitor experience is tied to public restrooms—if you have a dirty restroom, it reflects negatively on the visitor experience. At Fenway, fans now have a hand drying solution that works fast, so they can get back to their seats more quickly to enjoy the game.” Indirectly, the removal of paper towels, and their requisite maintenance, which requires staff to restock, check supplies, and empty waste receptacles, has been reduced significantly, freeing their time up to respond to accidents. “Before the XLERATOR Hand Dryers, it took about three to five minutes to have someone respond to the scene of a slip or fall,” says Knight. “Now, that time has dropped to 90 seconds.”
When a fan or patron has been injured, every second counts, and now Fenway is better able to respond immediately. Even plumbing issues have drastically reduced since the installation of the high-speed dryers. “Anecdotally, we definitely have less clogs since removing paper towels from our waste stream,” Knight says. Often the greening of a facility means low flow fixtures are installed, which are less able to handle improper paper towel disposal; this can unexpectedly raise costs for a business due to plumbing issues unless they also eliminate paper towels.
Built in 1912, Fenway’s ownership is committed to preserving its historic charm, making the addition of brand new appliances something of a challenge. Yet Knight found a compatible design in the XLERATOR, whose minimal harsh lines and variety of finishes blended seamlessly into the retro feel of the stadium, while feeling modern enough for 2016. “We try to stick with the historic nature of what Fenway is and what we hope it will always be, so whether its hand dryers or new seats, or whatever modification, we try to make it in the look and feel of what makes Fenway so special,” Knight says. A building that predates WWI also requires a delicate hand with electric work—the XLERATOR can run on a single circuit, making it a relatively painless install for older facilities with limited circuits, Gagnon explains. “When we invented the XLERATOR, we put a lot of effort into designing it to look like the dryer of the 21st century,” he says. “The end result was a much improved aesthetic design to conventional dryers that could fit into any restroom, new or old.”
Gagnon emphasizes the importance of versatility and accessibility for XLERATOR dryers, as we continue to build not only greener sports facilities, but also a more sustainable society. “While some sustainable solutions can be more expensive, XLERATOR Hand Dryers are easy to install, have built a reputation as being the most reliable and durable products on the market, and provide significant cost and environmental savings,” Gagnon says. “Our shared goal with GSA and Fenway is to reduce impact on the environment, and hope that by doing so, we inspire others to do likewise,” says Gagnon. The sports market is a unique opportunity to communicate with fans and athletes alike, through an environment that connects people to each other in a powerful, dialogue-sparking way, as any die hard sports fan can attest. “With sports being so important to so many people, it’s really important to me to share our greening efforts with the fans,” says Knight. “Because we do have a voice in impacting the environment beyond Fenway Park.”
AFFILIATION: UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON HUSKIES
LEAGUE: NCAA (DIVISION I)
LOCATION: SEATTLE, WA
One of the best pieces of real estate in Seattle, Washington, might be the location of the University of Washington’s football stadium. Husky Stadium has prime views of Lake Washington and the Cascade Mountains, but prior to 2011, the building itself did not hold the grandeur to match its views. Concrete crumbled due to constant exposure to the moist weather, rebar was exposed, and golf carts often transported fans to their seats. 360 Architecture (which was acquired by HOK in 2015) took the challenge of redesigning the 1920’s stadium, which had already gone through four major remodels over the years, to a state-of-the-art facility.
Protecting the environment during the $280 million remodel started with two retention ponds that filtered construction wastewater before it entered Lake Washington. “Even the trucks that drove off went through a washing cycle,” says Karen Baebler, assistant athletic director for the university. “We are a salmon safe university, which is probably unique—water that comes from the stadium goes into the lake, so it was important none of the construction waste wound up there.” In fact, 95% of the construction waste was either reused or recycled. For example, during the demolition of the lower bowl of the stadium, a concrete crusher was brought onsite to utilize the original materials as filler under the new structure. Some of the metal bleachers that once filled the student section are now used as a decorative design feature on the northwest and southwest entrances.
And, knowing that the largest amount of waste would occur once fans returned to the stadium, recycling and compost was obviously a huge part of the plan. It started with changing out the containers used to serve food to nearly 100% recyclable and compostable materials. Onsite compactors were installed on the loading docks, and planners created a two-stream recycling system. During the 2014 football season, nearly 80% of all waste from the stadium was recycled or composted using the new system.
But that was just one way architects wanted to reduce the stadium’s carbon footprint. In an effort to take advantage of Washington’s climate, the architectural team brought the outside air and beauty inside. The remodel included the addition of suites with windows that allow fans to open and close—reducing the amount of heat or air conditioning the stadium consumes. The restrooms and locker rooms now have motion-activated LED lights; low-flow water fixtures that reduce the amount of water consumed; and elevators instead of spiral ramps, which eliminated vehicle traffic inside the stadium. “Before golf carts had to shuttle fans to their seats on the upper levels,” says Baebler. “It feels much more like an indoor building now.”
It’s also now a building that can be utilized for more than just football games and practice. The new two-story, 83,000-square-foot football operations center, built as an addition to the west end of the stadium, offers players and coaches training and study space as well as a relaxation area that includes a barber’s chair. For players and the public, a 30,000-square-foot UW Sports Medicine Center opened. “What makes this special is everything is in one area now—players are not traveling between the locker rooms in another section of the university to get to the stadium and the public can take advantage of the sports medicine clinic,” Baebler says.
In mid-March, the light rail system added a stop in front of Husky Stadium—adding easy access to the stadium and sports medicine clinic.
The remodel of Husky Stadium took less than two years to complete and was ready for the 2013 football season. It now seats 71,500 fans and is the largest stadium in the Pacific Northwest.