Sustainable strides

Other sports markets across the country with notable environmental efforts.

By Bret McCormick

Seattle / Pacific Northwest

It’s no surprise that the Pacific Northwest is a hub of sports industry sustainability, given the region’s various and sophisticated programs and systems that divert waste from landfills. Seattle’s presence is headlined by Climate Pledge Arena, named after Amazon’s corporate sustainability undertaking. The venue aims to become the first carbon neutral arena in the world with no fossil fuels involved in the building’s daily use. Already, its ice sheet is made from collected and cleaned rainwater and 100% of energy comes from renewable sources, including on-site solar installations.

Seattle’s sports sustainability legacy was pioneered by Lumen Field and T-Mobile Park. Lumen Field was one of the first venues in the U.S. to successfully divert waste from the landfill on a large scale, and the home of the Seahawks and Sounders has used all-compostable serviceware since 2010. T-Mobile Park was the first MLB venue to use all-LED lighting in 2014. The University of Washington’s Husky Stadium underwent a major renovation in 2011 that incorporated sustainable practices during building and future operation. The project included the creation of two large retention ponds to filter all wastewater before it enters Lake Washington, helping protect local salmon populations from harmful runoff.

Seattle businesses that create food waste must subscribe to either a composting service or haul their scraps to a processing site themselves. And the same will be true in Portland beginning in 2023. The city is in sustainability lockstep with Seattle; Portland’s two biggest venues, the Trail Blazers’ Moda Center and the Timbers’ Providence Park, are LEED Platinum and LEED Silver certified, respectively. The Trail Blazers’ Threes for Trees program has planted nearly 37,000 trees since its inception in 2015.

Minneapolis / St. Paul

Sports organizations in the Twin Cities region have the support of municipal governments that support large-scale composting. This region features several LEED-rated buildings (U.S. Bank Stadium, Platinum; Target Field, Gold; XCel Energy Center, certified).

At U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings have maintained an 80% waste diversion rate since they hosted the 2018 Super Bowl; waste that isn’t diverted is converted into energy to heat buildings in downtown Minneapolis. More than 180 bike racks surround the venue, helping it become the first American sports venue to receive the Bike Friendly Business certification from the League of American Bicyclists.

Target Center installed the first green roof atop a sports arena in 2008, a 2.5-acre spread; the practice has become far more common in the dozen-plus years since.

In St. Paul, the city’s minor league baseball team, the Saints, plays in one of the sport’s most sustainable stadiums, CHS Field. It features a 27,000-gallon cistern that collects rainwater, which covers all irrigation and toilet-flushing needs and saves an estimated 450,000 gallons annually. A huge amount of material from a demolished building was reused in the venue’s construction, completed in 2015.

CHS Field was built on a brownfield, which has been converted into not only the stadium but a surrounding public green space, including a dog park. Similarly, Minnesota United’s Allianz Field also was built on a previously toxic brownfield, and is harvesting and reusing rainwater to irrigate the playing surface. Allianz Field’s lightweight PTFE skin, which glows blue at night, consists of energy-saving LED.

Desert Financial Arena has 2,100 solar panels lining its rooftop.ap images


Positioned in bone-dry Arizona, the Phoenix area is keenly aware of climate change effects and its sports organizations are increasingly onboard with sustainable business practices.

Most recently, Footprint claimed the naming rights to the Suns’ and Mercury’s renovated arena, now named the Footprint Center after the company that makes packaging out of sustainable plant fibers. Footprint and the teams plan to eliminate single-use plastics from the arena.

The PGA Tour’s Waste Management Open features 100% landfill diversion (which includes just over 11% of waste converted into energy through incineration), and since 2011, has reused over 44,000 gallons of water initially used in cooking or cleaning for portable toilets.

Arizona State’s athletic facilities feature numerous photovoltaic arrays, one of the largest renewable energy setups in college sports, including 2,100 solar panels alone on the roof of Desert Financial Arena. Sun Devil Stadium’s renovation in 2018 was deemed LEED Gold. The region is also home to three spring training complexes that have achieved LEED certification: Scottsdale Stadium, Peoria Sports Complex, and Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the latter two of which are LEED Gold.

The 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium features a 27,000-square-foot garden atop its five-story suite tower in Santa Clara. getty images

Bay Area / Northern California

Sustainability is largely baked into culture and governance in Northern California, so it’s no surprise that many of the region’s sports venues are sustainability standouts.

Two new NBA arenas were built in this region in the last four years, the Sacramento Kings’ Golden 1 Center (one of three LEED Platinum sports venues in North America) and the Golden State Warriors’ Chase Center (LEED Gold certified). The San Francisco Giants’ Oracle Park is also LEED Platinum certified, the only baseball stadium to achieve that rating, done in part through an aggressive zero waste campaign that’s regularly seen the ballpark divert more than 90% of its waste from the landfill. Chase Center and Oracle Park feature two of the most plant-intensive and locally sourced food and beverage programs in North American pro sports. Golden 1 Center is 100% solar powered, the first such venue in the world.

And the 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium just down Highway 101 in Santa Clara sits next to a public transportation hub and features a 27,000-square-foot green rooftop above the venue’s suite tower. More than 1,100 solar panels produce enough energy to power the team’s home games each season, while an extensive water recycling/recapture effort is used for irrigation.

The Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field is among the pioneers in sports sustainability, with 40% of its power needs supplied by 11,000 solar panels.getty images


Philadelphia just opened about three dozen free composting and food waste drop-off sites last year but has no large-scale municipal composting operation, so the region’s sports teams are on their own on that front. That hasn’t stopped the city’s venues from thriving, sustainability-wise, especially Lincoln Financial Field. One of North American sports’ venue sustainability pioneers, Lincoln Financial Field features an impressive photovoltaic array of more than 11,000 solar panels, providing about 40% of the facility’s power needs. It uses only recyclable straws and bales its own aluminum to save money and streamline recycling.

Wells Fargo Center’s 2018 renovation saw the venue turn to 100% wind-powered energy; power and renewable energy certificates purchased from Constellation prevent the emission of more than 14,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas annually.

The city is home to Aramark and Spectra, concessionaires each with several hundred team and venue clients. Spectra was recently acquired by Oak View Group, a venue management company with a clear focus on sustainability and lessening environmental impact in operations.

And out in the Philly suburb of Chester, the Union’s Subaru Park reached zero-waste status for the 2021 MLS season, part of a concerted effort by the team and its naming-rights partner, Subaru, to create the most sustainable venue in Major League Soccer.

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