Several facilities can justifiably lay claim to the “Greenest Stadium In the US” title. Levi’s Stadium, the LEED Gold certified home of the San Francisco 49ers, site of Super Bowl 50 next February, and profiled here when it opened last summer, certainly merits support. TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, home of the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers football team, earns kudos for being the first LEED certified college football stadium. But it is a stadium across the Mississippi in St. Paul that, despite its relatively modest minor league baseball pedigree, may wrest the title away from its bigger brethren.
Let’s get one thing straight about what this story will NOT be: A detailed, heavily-metricked ranking of the greenest stadia in the US. That is another worthy column for another day.
Rather, today we will look at a stadium that will no doubt be in the mix for the greenest stadium designation once that story is researched and written. And, while Green Goliaths like the aforementioned Levi’s Stadium and TCF Bank Stadium will certainly have a bigger environmental impact due to their bigger crowds, big league profiles and much greater awareness, perhaps CHS Field, the new, 7,000 seat home of the St. Paul Saints, an independent minor league baseball club, will win one for the little guys*.
CHS Field, home of the St. Paul (MN) Saints minor league baseball team, perhaps the greenest stadium in the US. (Photo Credit: CHS Field)
What makes CHS Field so green, anyway? It is the first sports venue to meet Minnesota’s B3 Sustainable Building 2030 Energy Standards, “an energy conservation program designed to significantly reduce the energy and carbon in [the state’s] commercial, institutional and industrial buildings.” Here are some of the reasons why CHS qualified for B3, courtesy of a piece that ran in the May 19th issue of “Environmental Leader”:
- Perhaps the most impressive green fact of all is that the Saints, along with builder and real estate manager Ryan Companies, transformed what once was one of the top 10 most contaminated brownfield (land previously used for commercial uses or industrial purposes that has been contaminated with hazardous waste and/or pollution) sites in the Twin Cities into a state-of-the-art, über-green ballpark.
- It is the first major sports venue to reuse rainwater for field irrigation. This is surprising to me–I would’ve thought this already would’ve happened by now but kudos to the Saints/Ryan for taking the lead here.
- The builders reused nearly all of the former Gillette warehouse building to construct CHS Field, reusing 20 percent of it as foundational elements, and recycling and reusing the rest in the form of crushed material that fills in below the playing field.
- CHS Field uses District Energy St. Paul’s system for heating and cooling loads. District energy systems, which are about 35% more efficient than traditional grid supply, work this way: They produce steam, hot water or chilled water at a central plant. The steam, hot water or chilled water is then piped underground to individual buildings for space heating, domestic hot water heating and air conditioning.
- Solar plays a big role at CHS Field, as Xcel Energy helped to fund a 100kW solar system which supplies 12.5% of the ballpark’s power.
- CHS Field is more than a stadium as a portion of the site was turned into a neighborhood dog park and rain garden featuring local artwork.
Infographic detailing the many ways CHS Field is, according to the St. Paul Saints and stadium builder Ryan Companies, “The Greenest Ballpark in America.” (Infographic credit: St. Paul Saints)
Now, you may ask: What is CHS and does the company share the ballpark’s green DNA? I must admit I hadn’t heard of the company before researching this story. CHS is a Fortune 100 (not 1000, not 500, Fortune 100) company headquartered in Inver Grove Heights, MN. It is an 86 year-old, farmer-owned cooperative that describes itself as working to help America’s farmers be more successful. So, CHS looks like it’s part of Big Agriculture (not environmentally friendly, despite some flowery public service announcements on the Sunday talk shows), albeit owned by small-ish farmers. It also owns Cenex brand gasoline and diesel fuels.
Seems to me that the ballpark is much greener than its naming rights partner. But, appearances can be deceiving, so we did some digging:
According to the sustainability section of its website, CHS has taken some positive greening measures, the most impressive of which is that its McPherson, KS refinery reduced its reported sulfur dioxide emissions by 95 percent and volatile organic compounds emissions by 70 percent over the past decade. However, resolutions adopted by the delegates to its December, 2014 annual meeting tell a far less green story. One such resolution opposed “climate change treaties that harm the US Economy”, another supported “technology-neutral energy policies”, which I read to mean that fossil fuels and renewables are of equal value in terms of future development (really?). Thus, GSB’s preliminary conclusion is that the Saints could’ve found a more mission-aligned naming rights partner than CHS.
So, perhaps this bit of a greenwash may knock CHS Field a peg below the Levi’s Stadiums of the world. Still it should not detract from the great work done by the Saints, Ryan Companies and St. Paul to build one of the US’ greenest stadia, if not the greenest.