By Lew Blaustein, GreenSportsBlog
“Which metro area is the Green-Sportsy-est in the US?”
To GreenSportsBlog, Minneapolis/St. Paul is the clear winner.
The Twin Cities boast five, count ’em five pro sports venues plus one independent league baseball stadium that all have green stories to tell. Plus a Green-Sports startup. Plus a chef who has made the Target Center a place for foodies as well as basketball fans to call home.
That’s why we need a four-part series to do show how the Twin Cities Rule US Green-Sports!
In Part I, we looked at US Bank Stadium (Minnesota Vikings and the 2020 Green Sports Alliance Summit), the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium and CHS Field (Independent baseball’s St. Paul Saints) from a green perspective.
Part II saw our our focus shift to food. David Fhima, has brought his tasty, clean, healthy culinary excellence to Target Center as head chef and “nutritional curator” for the NBA’s Timberwolves and WNBA’s Lynx.
In today’s Part III, we head back out to the Twin Cities’ venues.
Starting in Minneapolis, we check out the greenness of Target Field, home of the American League Central Division-leading Minnesota Twins. Then we light rail over to St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center to see how the Minnesota Wild have shown the green way for years. Staying in the state’s capital city, we end our tour with the Twin Cities’ newest venue, Allianz Stadium, home of MLS’ Minnesota United.
GREEN-SPORTS PART OF TWINS, TARGET FIELD’S DNA
Gary Glawe is a facilities management lifer — he studied it at the University of Wisconsin-Stout and then worked to help make Twin Cities-area tech and healthcare firms (Boston Scientific and Medtronic, respectively) operate as efficiently as possible. Eleven years ago, Glawe made it to the major leagues — literally — of facilities when he joined the Twins to manage facility operations, just as they were transitioning from the Metrodome to Target Field.
“The design phase was complete when I joined the Twins so I spent most of my time at the beginning of my tenure at the Target Field construction site,” Glawe recalled. “I was happy that sustainability was embedded in the design and that we were going for LEED certification for new construction. This was 2009-2010, early days for LEED certified stadiums. In fact, we became the second¹ major league ballpark to earn any kind of LEED certification. And, only one year after Target Field opened in 2010, we earned LEED Silver for operations and maintenance (O&M) status.”
LEED certification is certainly a good thing, but to Glawe, it’s the desire of Twins’ management to measure and constantly improve the club’s performance on a number of sustainability metrics — from waste to water use to energy use and more — that is most important.
“When it came time to re-certify for O&M in 2016, we asked ourselves if it was worth it,” Glawe said. “We found that the US Green Building Council, which administers LEED, wasn’t asking for accountability from us. So why should we pay thousands of dollars for what really is window dressing? We weren’t going to get re-certified until a consultant, Sustainability Investment Group, came in and told us about the Arc platform for LEED certified buildings.”
Arc helps venues turn raw data into usable information.
More Glawe: “You input data monthly on energy, waste, water, transportation and ‘human experience’ into Arc. It gives you a real-time scorecard of how you’re performing versus benchmarks. Arc provided the accountability I was looking for!”
One key Arc scorecard item for the Target Field team is lighting. The Twins shifted to LEDs for its field lights in 2017 as part of a multi-year upgrade. While the LEDs delivered top quality light as expected, it was the energy savings scorecard that most interested Glawe:
- BEFORE (metal halides): 746 bulbs at 2,000 watts each.
- AFTER (LEDs): 512 bulbs at 1,000 watts each.
Arc also puts a high priority on waste diversion rates.
When Target Field opened, rates hovered in the 50 percent range; now they’re up into the 70s. The Twins’ on-field performance has an impact on those rates.
“When the team’s record went south, attendance went down, and our diversion rates went down because divert-ible waste decreased,” noted Glawe. “Now that the team is doing much better, so are our diversion rates. One thing that helps is our move to compostable products, thanks to our partnership with Eco-Products.”
The lighting upgrades, improved waste diversion rates and more helped Target Field become the first sports facility to earn LEED Arc certification, and at the Gold level. But Glawe wants more: “When it comes time to re-certify in 2022, we’ll definitely be looking to achieve Platinum.”
The Twins are engaging their fans to up their green games with pregame messaging on the video board and a Go Twins/Go Greensection on the website. The club hasn’t yet made the direct connection to fans between greener behaviors and the climate change fight.
XCEL ENERGY CENTER, MINNESOTA WILD BRING GREEN-SPORTS TO ST. PAUL
The Minnesota Wild have a “Go Big” attitude and are “unafraid to fail” when it comes to the sustainability initiatives they’ve undertaken at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center over the past ten years or so.
Don’t believe me?
In 2009 Jim Ibister, the Wild’s VP of Facility Administration tasked his team with a 50-50-2 challenge. All that meant was that the staff had to get recycling rates up to 50 percent and reduce waste by 50 in just two years.
The Xcel Energy Center staff blew by that number in 18 months.
That’s quite an achievement when you consider that per Ibister, Xcel Energy Center “did not have sustainability embedded in its building design or its operations when it opened in 2000.”
It took a few years, but Ibister — who joined the Xcel Energy Center that same year — and his team took matters into their own hands when it came to greening.
“A few years in, and all we had were some recycling bins,” Ibister recalled. “This was not nearly enough. So we put together a sustainability deck in 2004 that featured low hanging fruit like waste reduction, and presented it to management. They said ‘not interested.’ But with the help of Progressive Associates, a husband and wife sustainability consulting firm, I went ahead and implemented most of it anyway — hey, the costs were low!”
Not only was tackling waste inexpensive, Ramsey County and the State of Minnesota combined had levied a hefty 70 percent tax on trash. There was no tax on compost so going that route saved a lot of money. Once management realized that going green was good business, they bought in.
Ibister and his team follow three mantras when considering sustainability initiatives at Xcel Energy Center:
- Don’t chase certifications. “Do the best we can,” Ibister said. “If that gets us LEED certification, great. If not, that’s OK too.”
- Be transparent.
- Keep it simple.
Achieving simplicity has not been easy. “Fans have ‘separation anxiety’ with trash, recycling and composting bins,” admitted Ibister. “It’s easier for us in the suites and club level, where we only offer composting and recycling. It’s harder to get fans to place their refuse in the correct bin in the main seating bowl because there is trash as well as recycling and composting and it can get confusing at times. We work hard to educate them but we haven’t found the perfect system. But we will continue to set high goals and will keep trying to achieve them.”
Think 50-50-2 was a tall order? The Xcel Energy Center team challenged itself again in 2009 with an audacious 80-20 in 3 challenge: Reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent, increase efficiency to 20 percent better on average than similar buildings, all in 3 years.
They didn’t make it in time but Ibister doesn’t see that as a failure.
“We set goals that were hard to achieve so we knew there’s was a chance we wouldn’t get there,” Ibister reflected. “But we took away the fear of failing by failing. And we made great strides in the attempt, making progress on emissions reductions through purchases of offsets from Sterling Planet, a solar thermal installation, energy efficiency, composting and recycling, and more. We didn’t make the 80 percent reduction number by 2012 but now we are at 88.7 percent below 2007-2008 levels.”
On efficiency, Xcel Energy Center has a secret weapon on its HVAC team.
“We’ve brought in many companies to try to help us automate and save money,” said Ibister said. “Then they see the work our lead engineer has done and they say ‘oh, we can’t do better’ and leave. I’d name him but he prefers anonymity. The only way we will replace him someday is with a machine.”
Ibister says the one sustainability area he’d like to improve the most is on communications with the fans. But, like 80-20 in 3, it ain’t easy. And that means Ibister and team will go for it.
“We don’t communicate green with fans as much as we should,” lamented Ibister. “Some fans don’t want to hear about green — ‘Just get us a new goalie! Climate change is fake.’ But that doesn’t stop us. When we do talk about it we do so in a celebratory fashion (‘We just became LEED certified!”). And we’re being more strategic about it. The last few seasons we used University of Minnesota students to help communicate the importance of green. Last fall they did fan surveys which were well received.”
What’s next on the Xcel Energy Center green agenda?
While the light rail’s green line stops about three blocks away, there is a push for a modern streetcar to be built that would bring fans to the arena’s front door. The best guess is that this project is five to eight years down the road.
What’s the big deal about three blocks?
“Three blocks is a long way when it’s minus 30° Fahrenheit outside,” noted Ibister.
MINNESOTA UNITED BUILDS PUBLIC PARK FOR COMMUNITY OUTSIDE BRAND NEW ALLIANZ FIELD
Bill McGuire, owner of Minnesota United, had a clear plan back in 2015 for what would become Allianz Field, his team’s brand new stadium in St. Paul.
“Along with sports architect Populous and Mortenson Construction, McGuire pushed a vision for the stadium that evoked and fit the Midway neighborhood,” shared Samantha (Sam) Chapman, Project Manager for Minnesota United. “The area’s building stock is not very vertical and so Allianz Field is not overwhelming height-wise. Midway has a diverse population and we want to be a connector for the community.”
Helping to connect the community is the Great Lawn, a new green space funded by ownership on a 28,000 square foot plot of land north of the stadium. On game days, it’s an area for pre-game parties. But with only perhaps major 30 event days per year, the Great Lawn’s main function is as a new public park. “Anyone in the community can enjoy it,” Chapman said. “This was an essential aspect of the stadium project.”
MLS has the youngest fan base of the five pro sports in North America. That’s why mass transit and bicycle access is arguably more important for Minnesota United than for their baseball, basketball, football and hockey counterparts.
Like the five other pro venues in the Twin Cities, Allianz Field is on the Green Line. While there are no data available yet on the percentage of Minnesota United supporters who take light rail — the stadium is only three months old — there’s a good chance the numbers will be impressive when they do come in.
“We expect the mass transit numbers should be strong since parking is limited” related Chapman. “Last year when we played at TCF Bank Stadium, the home of University of Minnesota football, 33 percent of fans took mass transit, a higher percentage than at UM games. Many fans commute to our games by bicycle, too. We can house 400 bikes on our permanent bike racks surrounding the stadium, and we’ve had to bring in more on game days for our fans.”
The club has not mounted a green fan engagement effort yet but, per Chapman, that is changing now.
“Our Green Team launched July 3rd at Allianz Field; they will be helping and educating our fans while disposing items during our game days,” Chapman asserted. “Along with Biz Recycling, our recycling and composting partner, the Green Team will make sure fans use the proper container — organics, recycling and trash. They’ll also be looking for fans who do this on their own, and recognizing them with a prize. We’ll be running messaging and images throughout our in-house production on game days as well on our social media outlets about the importance of waste diversion and minimizing items being sent to the landfill.”