ELMONT, N.Y. — Kim Stone needed something “truly great” to leave Miami and become president of UBS Arena, the home of the New York Islanders.
Oak View Group opened Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle in October 2021 and the Belmont Park facility the following month, with cutting-edge ambitions for sustainability, and offered Stone the chance to oversee UBS Arena achieving its carbon neutrality aspirations for all known scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2024.
All it would take is leaving the tropics for the bitter wind chill that comes with life in the Northeast.
Stone accepted the position of arena president July 11 and took over Aug. 1. UBS Arena blew past its self-imposed deadline, operating with 100 percent renewable energy in October, and in February announced LEED certification by the U.S. Green Building Council, a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement in green building design.
UBS Arena also is a Founding Circle Member of GOAL (Green Operations & Advanced Leadership), a sports and entertainment industry-recognized sustainability movement launched by Oak View Group.
“I saw New York as the mecca,” Stone said. “It’s where it’s going to be the toughest challenge. We’re in a crowded marketplace, so that forces you to be innovative. It forces you to be creative and forces you to get outside of your comfort zone. It’s a challenge and I love challenges. That’s probably something that would be a hallmark of my career.”
It’s perfect timing for the NHL to celebrate Green Month and raise awareness of sustainability and environmental issues in the hockey ecosystem with UBS Arena potentially hosting the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time. The Islanders (39-30-9) hold the first wild card from the Eastern Conference and have a two-point lead on the Florida Panthers, the first team outside the postseason bubble, with four games remaining in the regular season.
Visitors are seeing the big picture. According to UBS Arena:
* All arena lightning is energy conserving LED lighting.
* Olympia ice-resurfacing machines that run on renewable, energy-sourced electricity, creating no exhaust, are used.
* Electric shuttles provide round-trip service to the Emerald parking lot a half-mile away.
* Water consumption has been reduced by 40 percent compared to similar venues using low-flow plumbing aligned to LEED standards.
* Sustainable, local and healthy foods are used by sourcing 75 percent of most ingredients within a 300-mile radius based on seasonality.
“They have effectively very little material being sent anywhere except for recycling and compost now,” said Kristen Fulmer, Oak View Group sustainability expert and head of the OVG Goal 360 program. “They continuously track their carbon footprint using the GOAL Portal. They have a great team that prioritizes sustainability.”
Fulmer grew up in Durham, North Carolina, and her appreciation of the environment came from some unique sources.
“My parents are basically hippies,” she said. “When I was growing up I had to open the window blinds in my room at just the right angle to let the sun in. And if I didn’t do it right, I would get grounded. Not exaggerating.
“I always was so frustrated that doing the right environmental thing felt like such a challenge. In my career, I realized that sustainability in buildings had to be easy for people.”
That challenge led to her studying architecture at Virginia Tech, and she completed her master’s degree in sustainable design at the University of Texas.
Like too many women with designs of advancement, though, Fulmer was told, “No.”
Stone had similar bumps along her path, saying she often was mistaken for someone serving coffee rather than leading the meeting, even with 25 years of experience overseeing green initiatives for the Miami Heat and two at Chase Center, the home of the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco. She then returned to the Heat as executive vice president, human capital and special projects. Heat president Pat Riley, a Hall of Fame NBA coach, helped her learn best practices for dealing with roadblocks that might be in her path.
“I’ve had the micro-aggressions,” she said. “I’ve had people take my ideas. But you have a choice in that moment to either let it really set you back and knock you off track or just to continue and just keep going at it and prove over time what you bring to the table, because sometimes it just takes some people longer than others to understand.”
UBS Arena’s green initiatives are raising the bar for what former arena president Hank Abate said in May 2021 was to be “like no other building in the country.” OVG is exploring on-site solar generation for renewable energy, and one objective by year’s end is a zero-waste venue diverting at least 90 percent of its waste from landfills. The Islanders in March enticed fans to take the 31-minute Long Island Rail Road trip from New York Penn Station to Elmont with “31 Days of 31 Giveaways,” promoting a chance to win an autographed jersey or bobblehead of Hockey Hall of Fame goalie Billy Smith.
There also are plans to make learning about sustainability fun and arriving at what Stone calls “that moment of truth. When you’re about to throw your trash away, don’t make the easy choice. Take that five extra seconds and make the right choice.”
Added Fulmer, “Call it maternal instinct, call it what you want, but I think just generally thinking proactively about the health and wellbeing of that next generation. That’s the reason we take on sustainability. We want to protect the planet.”