Atlanta likely does not make the Top 10 when one thinks about the greenest cities in the US. That may well change once new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the stunning new techno- and sustainability-forward home of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and MLS’ Atlanta United, opens in 2017. GreenSportsBlog recently talked with Scott Jenkins, the stadium’s General Manager, about its greenness and what that means for Atlanta and beyond.
Scott Jenkins has practically lived at the intersection of Green + Sports for the the past decade. He helped create the Philadelphia Eagles “Go Green” program in 2004 and then went on to become VP of Ballpark Operations of Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners, in 2006. Under his direction, Safeco Field became one of the early adapters of greener stadium operations. In 2010, Jenkins helped launch the Green Sports Alliance, alongside Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, then of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and now the Alliance’s President. Jenkins has served as Board Chair of the Alliance since 2011.
Scott Jenkins, General Manager of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the future home of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United FC, scheduled to open in 2017. (Photo credit: Mercedes-Benz Stadium)
So it was no surprise to GreenSportsBlog that, when Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons and expansion Atlanta United of MLS, looked for someone to manage the building of a new downtown stadium that will push the envelope of sustainable operations, he chose Scott Jenkins.
Leaving Seattle and Safeco Field was not easy but Blank’s commitment to top flight design, service, and environmental performance (LEED Platinum is the goal) won Scott over. “I wouldn’t have taken the job otherwise” said Jenkins. And, when talking with Jenkins, one gets the sense that Mercedes-Benz Stadium will live up to the high design/service/environmental performance bar Blank has set for it (check out this video fly-through and get ready to be blown away!):
- Light: The LED lighting system will, says Jenkins, “not only use 60% less electricity than the current metal halides, go on and off quickly, and last for 10+ years, it will also deliver a better quality of light which will add to the fan experience. So too will the abundant natural light that enters the concourses through highest-tech, energy efficient, floor-to-roof glass.”
- Retractable Roof: WOW!!! That’s what I said when I saw the designs for the Oculus-style (think camera lens) retractable roof. It is one of Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s iconic elements. It was designed to, when open, maximize the amount of natural light. Per Jenkins “the roof makes the stadium feel like an outdoor stadium that can close rather than an indoor stadium that can open.”
Artist’s rendering of the open “oculus” roof of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Photo credit: Mercedes-Benz Stadium)
- On-site Renewables: There are solar panels on top of the garage nearest the stadium that will, among other things, power the charging stations that provide juice for EVs parked below.
- Green Space: The Georgia Dome, the Falcons’ current home, will be demolished. In its place will be new grassy areas for parking. In its place will be open space for tailgating and non-game day community use.
- Rainwater Collection: Rainwater that falls on the roof and site will be collected and will be for irrigation and make up water for the cooling towers.
- HVAC: High efficiency condensing boilers will provide heating and high efficiency chillers will reduce cooling costs.
- Food: Farm-to-table and organic offerings will be available throughout the building. Landscape features include on-site edible gardens.
- Mass Transit: The stadium will be served by 2 MARTA light rail stops. 25% of attendees take MARTA to the Georgia Dome now—one of the highest rates in the NFL. And, when Atlanta United opens play in spring 2017, the expectation is that the younger MLS crowd will use mass transit at even higher levels.
- Green-Sports 101: The green basics will be covered, from recycling to composting; from waterless urinals to bike racks.
Artist’s rendering of the exterior of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, with green space in the foreground and solar panels (covering the garage) on the left. (Photo credit: Mercedes-Benz Stadium)
Going green is good for business (Jenkins: “our greening/efficiency steps will save 34% in energy usage vs. a typical stadium design and that translates to about $900,000 in annual savings “) and Atlanta’s business community is embracing the greenness of Mercedes-Benz Stadium in a big way. “Sponsors are buying into sustainability,” said Jenkins, “which means additional revenue and increased visibility for our green initiatives.”
And while the Georgia capital ain’t Seattle in terms of greenness (yet), it is, in what may be a surprise to some outsiders, a rapidly-greening city and thus a worthy home to Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Jenkins pointed out that, “Sustainable business is growing in the Atlanta area, with Coca-Cola and Interface Carpet leading the way. Georgia Tech University, just a couple of miles away from the stadium, is at the forefront of sustainability innovation and research. And many green-focused foundations (Turner Foundation, Blank Foundation, Ray C. Anderson Foundation and Captain Planet Foundation to name just four) call Atlanta home.”
It is important to note that, to Arthur Blank, sustainability means much more than the very-important environmental component. Blank sees Mercedes-Benz Stadium, located between a glittering downtown and economically downtrodden West Atlanta neighborhoods of Vine City and English Avenue (where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., lived) as being a significant engine for revitalization. As Jenkins put it, “The stadium, through the West Side Works jobs program, has already put more than 200 residents from the Westside neighborhoods in living wage jobs in the construction, culinary and nursing sectors.”
The revitalization of the Westside and the addition of a beautiful green stadium in a thriving downtown district makes for a great local Atlanta story. But know this: That story will reach a national audience as Mercedes-Benz Stadium plays host to the 2018 College Football National Championship Game and the 2020 Men’s Basketball Final Four. That audience will become global once a Super Bowl is granted to the stadium, something that will no doubt be in the offing.
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