By Tim Nelson
At the end of July, the NBA will resume its season from within a remote “bubble” at Disney World in Orlando. Shortly before that, Major League Baseball will begin a 60-game season played in stadiums filled only by cardboard cutouts. Suffice to say, most sports fans aren’t thinking about the in-person experience at the moment. But once the puck drops on the 2021–22 NHL season, they (hopefully) may be thinking less about COVID-19 and more about climate change and sustainable stadium design.
This shift in thinking would be due in large part to Climate Pledge Arena, the future home of Seattle’s NHL expansion team and the WNBA’s Seattle Storm. Named after the Amazon-led initiative pushing corporate signatories to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, the revamped venue formerly known as KeyArena hopes to raise awareness about its namesake issue while setting a new standard in green, sustainable design.
Rather than simply joining the ranks of the 300-plus sports venues around the world that had achieved some level of LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council as of 2019, the joint venture between Amazon, entertainment investment firm Oak View Group, and NHL Seattle’s ownership aims to be the first arena in the world to achieve a Net Zero Carbon certification from the nonprofit International Living Future Institute (ILFI). This would eclipse the LEED Platinum certification first earned by Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 2017 and set a new gold standard.
Hitting that ambitious target starts with the use of sustainable construction practices and materials and continues through game-day operations. Events at Climate Pledge Arena will be powered by 100% renewable electricity generated by on- and off-site solar panels, an effort further supplemented by forestry projects for carbon sequestration.
Keeping key operational components local will also help cut down on carbon. At least three quarters of the arena’s food, to be served in compostable containers, will be sourced from local farmers and producers, with viable unused food diverted to local community food programs. And for the first time ever, rainwater that falls on the arena’s iconic roof—the main architectural holdover from the KeyArena days—will be collected in cisterns and treated so it can be turned into regulation-quality NHL ice. In short, Climate Pledge Arena will quite literally embed sustainability into the game itself.