SunTrust Park, home of the Atlanta Braves, will host a snowboarding/freeskiing event this weekend.
Since the average monthly snowfall in Atlanta in December is 0.2 inches, the Braves are importing 800 tons of manmade snow for the two night event.
This cannot be a good thing from a carbon emissions perspective.
And it shows the Braves, and especially event co-producer U.S. Ski & Snowboard, are not serious when it comes to fighting climate change.
The first sentence on the sustainability page of the U.S. Ski & Snowboard website reads as follows (BOLD my emphasis): “U.S. Ski & Snowboard, a national and global leader in snow sports, is committed to addressing climate change and stewarding sustainability of winter sports. Millions globally are inspired by winter sports and enjoy healthy, active lifestyles in winter environments. Climate change threatens our winter environments with receding glaciers, rising sea levels, volatile weather cycles and less snowfall.”
Meanwhile, the Atlanta Braves proudly touted the green aspects of their new ballpark at a June 2018 stadium tour.
So how is it that U.S. Ski & Snowboard and the Braves are teaming up to host Visa Big Air presented by Land Rover at SunTrust Park? The two-night event featuring top U.S. freeskiers and snowboarders that begins this evening requires, per both organizations’ websites (BOLD my emphasis) “800 tons of snow [to]…be brought in to create a surface on which the world’s best freeskiers and snowboarders can perform.”
800 tons of snow were needed to make this weekend’s Big Air freeski and snowboard event possible at SunTrust Park in Atlanta (Photo credit: U.S. Ski and Snowboard)
WHAT ARE THE CARBON IMPACTS? WHO KNOWS?
GSB has several questions about the carbon emissions, climate costs and pollution impacts associated with Big Air:
- Where is the white stuff being made and how far is that from the slopes, er, SunTrust Park?
- How is it being transported?
- What chemicals are in the snow to keep it, well, snow? Temperatures both nights are expected to be in the 45-48° F (7.2-8.9° C), a bit toasty for snow.
- How will the snow’s runoff impact the local soil and waterways?
- Are the Braves and/or U.S. Ski & Snowboard calculating the carbon emissions associated with Visa Big Air?
- If so, are they offsetting the carbon emissions generated by Big Air’s big chunk of manmade snow?
You won’t find answers to these queries by searching the Braves’ or U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s websites. Neither organization responded to GreenSportsBlog’s requests for comment.
And you don’t have to be a carbon emissions analyst to get that the carbon and environmental impacts of generating, transporting, maintaining and disposing of 800 tons of snow to Atlanta have to be significant.
While this does not seem to be a concern of either organization, U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s President and CEO clearly showed his cards as to what was most important to him. “Visa Big Air at SunTrust Park will bring our sports out of the mountains and to the people in a major metropolitan area,” Tiger Shaw said. ““We are very excited to have Visa as our title sponsor and to partner with the Atlanta Braves to continue to grow the fan-base of this exciting sport for our athletes, sponsors and the snow sports industry.”
WE ARE NOT SERIOUS ABOUT CLIMATE!
Beyond the actual carbon impacts of Big Air at SunTrust Park, what kind of messages are the Braves and U.S. Ski & Snowboard sending about their real attitudes towards the climate crisis?
Seems to me you can boil their real attitude down to these four words:
WE ARE NOT SERIOUS!
This borrows from John McEnroe’s famous YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS! rant at Wimbledon in 1981 when an umpire’s call didn’t go his way.
So, channeling McEnroe, the Braves and U.S. Ski & Snowboard are saying WE ARE NOT SERIOUS! about the climate climate hosting when they co-host a skiing event in a city that averages 1.2 inches of snow per year and hasn’t seen a real snowfall in since January 2016.
What about U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s lofty words about their commitment to the climate fight?
WE ARE NOT SERIOUS!
Of course, this problem of talking the climate talk while walking in the opposite direction goes far beyond the Braves and U.S. Ski & Snowboard.
A good argument can be made that the NHL has been the most advanced North American professional sports league, greenwise, for over a decade. And FIFA, the governing body for world soccer, signed on to the U.N.’s Sports For Climate Action Framework earlier this year.
That is why it says here that the NHL’s move to hold one of their outdoor Stadium Series games at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles in January 2014 (game time temperature: 63° F/17.2° C) and FIFA’s choice in 2011 of Qatar — one of the hottest countries on Earth — to host the 2022 Men’s World Cup showed a lack of seriousness on climate change. Hopefully, both organizations will not make similar decisions going forward.
Dodger Stadium during the NHL’s Stadium Series game (Photo credit: Yahoo! Sports Puck Daddy)
BRAVES, U.S. SKI & SNOWBOARD BENEFIT FROM BIG AIR
I am not naive; there are significant benefits to both parties from hosting Big Air.
The Braves will…
- Generate off-season revenue from the sponsors and paying customers. Two-day passes run from $40 to $370.
- Draw an audience — freeskiing and snowboarding fans — that is much younger than the average baseball fan. Attracting millennials and GenZers to SunTrust Park may lead a few of them to say “this place is cool, we should come to a Braves game or two next season.”
U.S. Ski & Snowboard will…
- Broaden their sport’s footprint beyond snow country.
- Get valuable primetime exposure for itself and its athletes on the Friday and Saturday before Christmas on NBC Sports and NBCSN.
NOBODY’S PERFECT; WHERE’S THE LINE?
Of course, when it comes to humanity’s carbon addiction, no one is perfect, not even close. We in the developed world are of course the most gluttonous, carbon-wise.
Individuals like me, companies, institutions, governments, you name it.
Sports is no different.
Teams and fans spew tons of carbon into the atmosphere when they fly or drive to and from games. Keeping a rink cold enough to ice hockey takes tons of carbon. And on and on.
Columnists and fans like yours truly are not getting exorcised about that because we are not ready to give up sports in the interest of fighting climate change — at least not yet.
That’s a different column for sometime in 2020.
Today’s question is: Where’s the line between what’s OK and what’s not, carbon emissions-wise in sports?
I don’t have a definitive answer for you but, for today I’ll go with “I know Green-Sports obscenity when I see it.”
And bringing 800 tons of snow to SunTrust Park in Atlanta to have a freeskiing-snowboarding event qualifies as obscene to me, especially for an organization like U.S. Ski and Snowboard that asserts it is committed to addressing climate change.
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