Green Sports Alliance Summit

A Newsy Day 2 at the Green Sports Alliance Summit: Sacramento, Here We Come; Hershkowitz’s Final President’s Address; Ference Wins Environmental Leadership Award


Day Two (Wednesday) at the Green Sports Alliance Summit in Houston generated more news than any single day in the four summit’s GreenSportsBlog has attended. So let’s get straight to it.



Sacramento Mayor and former Phoenix Suns All Star guard Kevin Johnson, whose arrival in Houston and his speech at the summit were delayed by a day by extreme weather (“climate impacted my climate change remarks”), opened Wednesday’s plenary session with some big news: The California capital city, home to the NBA’s Kings and their brand new, first in the NBA, LEED Platinum certified Golden 1 Center^, will host the 7th annual Green Sports Alliance Summit in 2017.


Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. (Photo credit: City of Sacramento)


Mayor Johnson related that, back at the 1st summit in 2010, he had pressed Alliance leadership to come to Sacramento. But the Kings, the only major sports league team in Sacramento, were threatening to move to Seattle and the team’s arena was substandard.

Fast forward to 2016: The Kings are safely ensconced in Sacramento. This, after an epic come back reminiscent of an NBA game, in which Mayor Johnson rallied the public and the local business community, to make the commitments necessary to keep the Kings in town. The biggest of those commitments was the financial support from the city, generated without raising taxes#, that allowed for the design and construction of Golden 1 Center, the site of next year’s summit.

Summiteers will be treated to the state-of-the-green-art in stadiums/arenas. Per Mayor Johnson, the arena showcases a brand of greenness that is “uniquely Sacramento,” as Golden 1 Center will be:

  • The first arena to be powered 100% by solar energy, with power generated from rooftop solar and from plugging into the area’s “solar grid.”
  • Drought-friendly, as it will save 2 million gallons of water annually via smart plumbing and water use management systems.
  • The first indoor-outdoor arena in the US and perhaps the world. One end of the building will be largely open, which will allow the region’s “Delta Breeze” to enter in the early evening, cooling the arena and saving on energy use and cost.
  • “Farm-to-fork” as 90% of the food will be locally produced, much of it organic.

OK, I have to admit; Sacramento was not on my radar as a place to visit. But after Mayor Johnson’s pitch, my mind is changed and I eagerly look forward to GSA Summit 2017 at Golden 1 Center.



Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, outgoing President of the GSA, used his final President’s Address to reflect upon the last twelve months, zooming in for a narrow look at the Green-Sports niche and then widening his lens to take on the global aspects of climate change. No matter his focus, Hershkowitz saw significant successes and challenges:

  • He expressed pride, on behalf of the green-sports world, at being named to Sports Business Journal’s 50 Most Influential People in the Sports Business: “I saw my placement on that list, the first time an environmental advocate was listed (my italics), as an affirmation by the most important business journal in the world of sports that responsible environmental stewardship was now a mainstream feature of sports operations.”
  • But climate change is not “waiting for the sports-greening movement to scale”:
    • With 2016 on pace to be the hottest year on record; climate change is “creating environmental refugees throughout the world…afflicting the poorest among us.”
    • “Species extinction continues to accelerate,” threatening 3/5 of the animals used in pro sports as mascots.
    • Water scarcity now “afflicts almost 3 billion people”
  • The response to these ecological threats by the sports industry “has been meaningful and continues to grow” domestically and internationally, with a myriad of non-profits, leagues, teams and universities engaged in greening our games.
  • Despite all of this great work, very few people outside of the sports-greening movement know such a movement exists: “If you weren’t focused on this issue…you’d be hard pressed to identify how much good environmental work is going on in the sports sector…outreach to fans about environmental issues by leagues and teams is underdeveloped.”


According to outoging GSA President Allen Hershkowitz, three-fifths of pro sports mascot species  are under threat of extinction, including tigers. (Photo credit: Allen Hershkowitz)


Hershkowitz also took the NFL and MLS to task for not measuring key environmental performance indicators—on energy, water, and waste, á la their MLB, NBA and NHL counterparts. And he rightly, to my way of thinking, shed light on how “the in-venue, on-screen silence about ways to address climate change, which might put our troops in harms way,” while the teams celebrate those same troops in patriotic displays.

The GSA is well positioned to take on these challenges and “is in fine shape,” said Hershkowitz, as he leaves to build an international counterpart to the Alliance to work on similar issues.

But wherever we undertake this work, Hershkowitz opined that, “If you study the data, ecological destabilization is winning. This is a life or death game. It is a game about the future of life on Earth. It’s a game we cannot afford to lose. Let’s step it up.”



Day 2 wrapped up with the GSA’s Award’s Night celebration at BBVA Compass Stadium, the beautiful home of MLS’ Houston Dynamo and NWSL’s Houston Dash.

While the Dynamo won the battle on the pitch, taking Sporting Kansas City, 3-1 in a Round of 16 US Open Cup match, Edmonton Oilers’ Captain and eco-athlete pioneer Andrew Ference took home the night’s biggest prize, the GSA’s Environmental Leader of the Year Award.

The award is presented to the individual who, per the Alliance, “has demonstrated leadership and has provided significant contributions to environmental sustainability within the sports industry– spurring environmental innovation at the team, venue, league or fan level as well as helping to advance the entire industry.”


Edmonton Oilers captain Andrew Ference, winner of the 2016 Green Sports Alliance “Environmental Leader of the Year” award. (Photo credit: Andrew Ference)


In what must have been a first for the GSA, a Head of State appeared in one of its videos as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau heralded, in both English and French, mind you,  Ference’s groundbreaking work on a variety of environmental initiatives. In his acceptance remarks, Ference said that he, along with the Alliance, will work to identify, engage and convene other eco-athletes to join the green-sports movement. And the GSA announced that Ference has joined its Board of Directors.

Andrew Ference—and the Dynamo—were not the only winners Wednesday night as the GSA honored six pro organizations and one Division I university with Environmental Innovation Awards:

  • MLB: Seattle Mariners
  • MLS/NWSL: Houston Dynamo/Houston Dash
  • NBA: Miami Heat
  • NCAA: University of Colorado, Boulder
  • NFL: San Francisco 49’ers
  • NHL: Vancouver Canucks
  • Other: US Tennis Association

Thus ended one long, newsy and steamy* day and night at the Green Sports Alliance Summit in Houston.

^ Golden 1 Center opens this October with Sir Paul McCartney.
# Much of the revenue was raised by leasing city-owned parking garages to private interests. The leases were structured in such a way so that the lessees made their payments upfront which provided the city with the cash to cover their portion of the arena’s construction costs. The Kings paid the bulk of the costs.
% NWSL = National Women’s Soccer League
* Did I mention it was hot and humid in Houston? No? It was!

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  1. Nice job Lew. It was a Summit to remember! And Ferences award and Trudeau speech made me cry!

  2. Thanks Dave. Agree–it was a Summit to remember. And I’d really like to know how the heck the GSA got Trudeau to make that video.

  3. […] A Newsy Day 2 at the Green Sports Alliance Summit: Sacramento, Here We Come; Hershkowitz’s Fin… […]

  4. […] Johnson went on to talk about how G1C will be the first major sports venue to source all of its energy from solar power, how it […]

  5. […] more green firsts? As detailed in a July 1 GreenSportsBlog post, Golden 1 Center will be the first arena in the world to […]

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