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It’s Overtime for Climate Change and Everyone Needs to Score

SportsBusiness Journal
By Vivek Ranadivé

As the heart of civic life, sports teams have a unique opportunity to be a leader in the environmental change movement. The greatest civilizations in the world have centered around large gathering places where people come together to talk, interact, enjoy sports and entertainment, and even engage in political debate. Today, sports venues are no different — they serve as the 21st century communal fireplace.

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When we set out to build the new Sacramento Kings arena in downtown Sacramento, we asked more than 20,000 Sacramentans what they wanted to achieve in their new arena, Golden 1 Center. Across the board the answer was: “To become a model of sustainability.”

And that is what we built. Our new arena achieves the highest sustainability standards, becoming the world’s only 100 percent solar-powered and LEED platinum-certified arena — putting it in the top 3 percent of all buildings scored by the organization.

By moving our arena downtown, we are reducing average miles traveled per attendee by 20 percent, cutting overall air emissions by 24 percent, and by 2020, will have reduced travel-related greenhouse gas emissions per attendee by 36 percent.

As the first-ever indoor/outdoor arena in the world, we’re able to take advantage of the region’s natural cooling phenomenon — The Delta Breeze — to control the building’s climate efficiently.

We built seven green outdoor walls totaling 4,800 square feet — covering two-thirds of the arena — as a living symbol of sustainability, installed low-flow plumbing fixtures throughout the arena, which can save over 40 percent of a typical arena’s water consumption, and ensured 99 percent of our demolition materials from the construction of the arena — over 101,000 tons — were recycled and diverted from landfills.

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Going Green: What’s in it for sports venue owners?

Construction Dive

The Barclays Center opted for a variety of green features. Credit: Adam E. Moreira

The Barclays Center opted for a variety of green features. Credit: Adam E. Moreira

For today’s buildings owners, the philosophy is often the greener the better. Owners of professional sports stadiums, as it turns out, are no exception. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, there are at least 30 LEED-certified sports venues in use or underway in the U.S., and the organization said that number is growing.

In September, the Sacramento Kings’ pronounced its new $557 million Golden 1 Center the first indoor LEED Platinum-certified sports arena in the world and the first sports venue powered entirely by solar energy. Arena designers also repurposed construction materials from the structures that were demolished to make way for the Kings’ new home, resulting in more than one-third of the new building’s material recycled from the old ones. Designers even used recycled athletic shoes for the court surfaces.

The arena’s location is green as well. The site selection process, which resulted in a downtown location, took fan travel time into consideration and, by 2020, will have reduced air emissions by 24% and related greenhouse gas emissions per attendee by 36% as a result. This will keep a projected 2,000 tons of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere each year.

The Atlanta Falcons’ new $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz stadium is also on track for LEED Platinum certification, and the facility will be the first sports venue to earn all of LEED’s water-related credits. The stadium received federal kudos last year when the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy recognized it for its solar-powered electric-vehicle charging stations and enough solar panels to power 160 area homes.

But what, exactly, is it that drives sports facility owners to go green?

Dan Chorost, environmental attorney at Sive, Paget & Riesel, said there are a few reasons. Those include wanting to lead by example, enjoying the public relations benefits, saving money and fulfilling local requirements. The latter was the case for the water capture system at the Barclays Center, in Brooklyn, NY, which is home to the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Islanders.

Chorost said the facility’s 400,000-gallon underground system, which the city required, helps keep stormwater out of the city sewers during heavy rain. Unlike cities with somewhat more modern infrastructure, New York still uses the same pipes to handle both sewage and stormwater runoff, he said, meaning that when public agencies decide to divert water to avoid flooding, there’s a chance human waste could be dumped into the East River, the Hudson River or New York Harbor.

Read the full story here.

Elaborate NFL Stadium Stormwater Control System Detailed

Environmental Leader

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Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers, made environmental history when it first opened in 2014. In addition to using recycled and reclaimed materials for construction, sporting a 27,000-square-foot green roof, and generating solar power, the $1.2 billion stadium has an elaborate system for stormwater management. Details about this novel system were recently made public.

Since rainwater can turn a football field into a muddy swamp, it can easily turn a parking lot into a floodplain, stormwater collection and treatment system company Oldcastle Building Solutions points out in their new case study of Levi’s Stadium. The stadium in Santa Clara, designed by HNTB, is 1.85 million square feet, has a capacity of 68,500 (not including club seats and luxury suites), and approximately 30,000 parking spots. All those hard surfaces can generate enormous stormwater runoff.

Adding to the challenge, the San Tomas Aquino Creek flows right by the stadium and ultimately feeds the ecologically-sensitive Guadalupe Slough as well as San Francisco Bay. As Oldcastle Building Solutions points out, the stadium site sits on land that has a high water table with storm drain lines close to the surface.

To deal with stormwater in the parking lots, project engineers GHD installed a modular system of precast concrete biofiltration units. They have cells containing mulch, biofiltration media, and drainage rock. The biofiltration media drain 5 to 10 inches per hour to be in line with the county’s requirements. Above ground the system resembles normal landscaping, but it allows the water to flow downward, get treated, and then go into an underground pipe. Microbes break down the filtered pollutants while the water irrigates plants and trees nearby.

Altogether, the stadium has six biofiltration systems in parking lots and areas right next to the building. One of the main systems is 2.5 feet wide and slightly over 600 feet long. Oldcastle Building Solutions reported that the project team installed more than 2,500 lineal feet of bioretention cells for approximately 14,000 square feet of space onsite.

The biofiltration is self-sustaining for the most part, according to the company, and protects the surrounding areas from contaminated runoff. Officially opening on July 17, 2014, Levi’s Stadium was on schedule and on budget. It was the first stadium hosting an NFL team to receive LEED Gold certification.