USTA Earns 2019 Environmental Leader Award From Green Sports Alliance

The Green Sports Alliance announced that the US Tennis Association is the winner of its 2019 Environmental Leader Award. It also recognized the legendary Billie Jean King for helping to launch the USTA greening movement at the National Tennis Center in Queens, NY home of the US Open that bears her name. 

The Environmental Leader Award is seen as among the most prestigious honors in the Green-Sports world and is given to an individual or organization that has demonstrated extraordinary leadership towards sustainability, environmental stewardship, and community engagement. The USTA will receive the award at the Green Sports Alliance’s annual Summit in Philadelphia on June 19. 

 

The US Tennis Association is a most deserving winner of the 2019 Environmental Leader Award.

That was the first thought that ran through my head upon hearing the news from the Green Sports Alliance since the governing body of tennis in the US has been leading the Green-Sports movement for more than a decade.

In addition to honoring Billie Jean King for her role as a true Green-Sports pioneer, the Alliance also recognizes Lauren Tracy, the USTA’s Director of Strategic Initiatives and current director of the USTA’s greening program, for her steadfast work in successfully building the program, from implementation to measurement, and beyond.

 

2019 USTA Leadership

Lauren Tracy (Photo credit: USTA)

 

In 2006, the USTA renamed its US Open venue the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The next year, King, along with Pam Derderian and Nancy Becker, founded and launched GreenSlam, an environmental initiative for the sports industry aimed at inspiring sports venues, promoters and manufacturers to declare their commitment and actions to a greener approach.

Then in 2008, King teamed up with Allen Hershkowitz — who was then with the NRDC before being instrumental in the birth of the Green Sports Alliance — to launch the USTA’s greening initiatives her namesake venue. Its “Our courts may be blue, but we’re thinking green” campaign educated fans about environmental stewardship using the faces of legendary tennis players to encourage fans to make eco-friendly choices. 

 

Billie Jean and Allen

Billie Jean King and Allen Hershkowitz during the 2008 shooting of the USTA’s “Our Courts May Be Blue But We’re Thinking Green” public service announcements (Photo credit: NRDC)

 

“With the renaming of the National Tennis Center in 2006, we worked with the USTA to launch year- round greening efforts for the home of the US Open,” said King. “The significant action taken almost 13 years ago has served as a springboard to positively impact the environment for the US Open, and the National Tennis Center, and has set an example for other tennis and sporting events to emulate.”

“It is a great privilege for the USTA to be named a recipient of the Environmental Leadership Award and join an impressive list of past honorees,” said Gordon Smith, CEO and Executive Director of the USTA. “As owners and operators of the US Open, one of the highest-attended annual sporting events in the world, we felt it both an obligation and opportunity to bring about measurable changes, and continue to do so across the board — including at the USTA National Campus [in Orlando, Florida]. A special thank you goes to all who have helped the USTA make green the color of choice.”

The USTA’s commitment to environmental sustainability is exemplified throughout all aspects of its work. Key examples include:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by over 100,000 metric tons through waste diversion, recycled paper use, and renewable energy certificates since the US Open Green Initiatives were established in 2008.
  • Since 2008, over 4,500 tons of waste generated during the US Open has been diverted from landfills, saving over 4,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • In 2018, the spectacular, new Louis Armstrong Stadium earned LEED Silver status, the third venue at the Billie Jean King National Center to earn LEED certification. It is the first naturally ventilated stadium with a retractable roof in the world.
  • The USTA offsets energy used on site during the US Open, the carbon emissions generated by the estimated 3.5 million miles the players travel to compete, as well as the miles traveled by the employees to work at the US Open for several years. For those offsets in 2018, the US Open focused on climate-intelligent humanitarian initiatives by investing in improved cookstoves in Malawi.
  • Since the start of the US Open Green program in 2008, almost 700 tons of food waste has been converted to nutrient rich compost for gardens and farms and over 100 tons of food has been donated to local communities.
  • The USTA has worked with its maintenance companies to develop a green cleaning policy to ensure that at least 50 percent of all cleaning materials used on site at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and the National Campus are Green Seal Certified or equivalent.
  • 2018 US Open waste diversion rate of 97 percent achieved, easily passing the 90 percent threshold needed to claim Zero-Waste status.

 

Louis Armstrong

The LEED Silver Louis Armstrong Stadium (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)

 

“The Green Sports Alliance is thrilled to present the USTA, Billie Jean King, and Lauren Tracy with this honor,” remarked Roger McClendon, Executive Director of the Green Sports Alliance. They are exemplary leaders in the sports greening movement and serve as an inspiration to the entire sports industry. We look forward to honoring them at the 2019 Green Sports Celebration at our ninth annual Green Sports Alliance Summit in Philadelphia.”

Past Environmental Leader honorees include:

  • ESPN Corporate Citizenship (2018)
  • Jack Groh, director of the NFL’s Environmental Program (2017)
  • Andrew Ference, captain and defenseman, Edmonton Oilers, Stanley Cup winner with the Boston Bruins (2016)
  • Doug Behar, New York Yankees vice president of stadium operations (2015)
  • Gary Bettman, commissioner, National Hockey League (2014)
  • Christina Weiss Lurie, owner, Philadelphia Eagles (2013)
  • Allan H. Bud Selig, commissioner emeritus, Major League Baseball (2012)

 

 

GSB’s Take: As mentioned at the top, the USTA is a great choice by the Alliance for the 2019 Environmental Leader Award. They have been ahead of the Green-Sports curve for more than a decade. Bravo!

Going forward, I believe the USTA should ramp up its fan engagement efforts at the US Open, both to those 700,000+ fans attending the tournament and to the millions more watching on ESPN in the US and on a myriad of networks around the world. And, in those fan engagement efforts, it should clearly make the connection between its greening efforts and the climate change fight.

 

 


 

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GreenSportsBlogger to Moderate “Sports, Carbon and Climate” Panel at Green Sports Alliance Summit June 19

The 2018 UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was crystal clear: Humanity has 12 years to decarbonize by 45 percent if we are to have a reasonable chance to avoid the most calamitous effects of climate change. To put that in sports terms, we only have the length of Mike Trout’s recent mega-contract extension with the Anaheim Angels, to make these changes. 

Thus it is fitting that climate change will have a much bigger role at the 2019 Green Sports Alliance Summit than any of the organization’s previous annual gatherings. The schedule features three sessions with climate in the title and I am proud to be moderating one of them, “Sports, Carbon and Climate.” Here’s a brief preview.

 

“Sports, Carbon and Climate” will delve into the best ways for the sports world to go about reducing carbon emissions and thus climate change, while navigating the scientific, political and cultural challenges inherent in sports taking on these fights . Specifically, the panel will discuss how:

  • Carbon pricing could potentially benefit the sports industry;
  • Going carbon neutral can help teams and events engage fans to take climate action;
  • The UN’s new Sports for Climate Action initiative turn into a powerful fan engagement tool;
  • Carbon offset projects, funded by sports teams and leagues, can make a positive impact, as well as their limitations

Our All-Star panel lineup includes:

  • David Antonioli, CEO, Verra: The nonprofit develops and manages standards and frameworks to vet environmental and sustainable development efforts, build their capacity and enable funding for sustaining and scaling up their benefits. Its Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) Program is the world’s most widely used voluntary greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) reductions program.
  • Steve Hams, Director of Engagement, Business Climate Leaders (BCL): BCL is an initiative of Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), a nonpartisan grassroots advocacy group with nearly 120,000 members in over 450 U.S. chapters. It helps American businesses understand and take action in shaping federal climate policy, with a focus on carbon pricing. Specifically, BCL encourages leaders from businesses of all sizes to endorse the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act: the first bicameral, bipartisan carbon pricing bill ever introduced in Congress.
  • Aileen McManamon, Founder and Managing Partner of 5T Sports: McManamon has been working to promote the United Nations Sports for Climate Action initiative which she co-authored. She works with sports teams and leagues on tripe bottom line business operations throughout North America and Europe.
  • Kevin Wilhelm, CEO Sustainable Business Consulting: Wilhelm played a key role in the Seattle Sounders (MLS) becoming North America’s first professional sports team to achieve carbon neutrality. He is the author of four books on the environment, including the acclaimed “Making Sustainability Stick.”

 

GSA Summit

 

The ninth annual Green Sports Alliance Summit takes place at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles¹, June 19-20. Click here if you would like to attend.

 

¹ The aforementioned Mike Trout is from the Philadelphia area and is a die hard Eagles fan.

 


 

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Greening the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games Seattle

How great is it when an iconic cause-based event like the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games embraces another cause — in this case, environmental sustainability? We’re talking really great.

GreenSportsBlog spoke with the sustainability team for Special Olympics USA 2018 Seattle — Karlan Jessen, Director of Volunteers and Sustainability; David Muller, Sustainability Consultant; and Tim Reeve, Sustainability Advisor — to find out how it came together, what worked well and what could’ve been better.

 

It was about a year before the July 1, 2018 Opening Ceremonies for the Special Olympics USA Games Seattle took place at Husky Stadium on the University of Washington campus, and an environmental sustainability plan was nowhere in sight.

And, since there had never been a sustainability effort at any of the three prior quadrennial USA Games, the odds were that Green would not be a part of the 2018 version.

Karlan Jessen, David Muller and Tim Reeve collectively and figuratively said “to heck with those odds,” and formed a Sustainability All-Star team of sorts. They created and implemented a greening program in what had to be record time.

 

Special Olympics Karlan_Headshot

Karlan Jessen (Photo credit: Karlan Jessen)

 

Special Olympics David Muller and Tim Reeve

David Muller (l) and Tim Reeve at the University of Washington (Photo credit: David Muller)

 

Jessen’s experience owning two used sporting goods stores, managing bicycle tours and running events made her an ideal pick for the Director of Volunteers and Sustainability role. Muller has deep experience consulting on sustainable events, focusing on environmental impact mitigation and positive social impact. And the Vancouver-based Reeve heads Reeve Consulting Group, a sustainability advisory firm. He’d worked with the Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on sustainability and responsible sourcing issues.

 

“I THOUGHT THERE SHOULD BE A SUSTAINABILITY EFFORT SO I RAISED MY HAND”

As general planning for the Seattle Special Olympics got started in earnest, Jessen started to get questions about sustainability from some of the event’s existing corporate partners. “ESPN in particular asked about what could be done. Nothing was being planned at the time” Jessen recalled. “I thought there should be a sustainability effort, and even though we only had a year or so to make it happen, I raised my hand. I knew David from our sustainability studies at the Bainbridge Graduate Institute (which later merged with Presidio Graduate School), so it was natural to team up with him.” It wasn’t long before Reeve joined to make the group a triumvirate.

The team quickly established a plan that was made up of six sustainability pillars. Four were environmentally focused, while the other two fall in the social portion of the broad Environmental-Social-Governance (ESG) definition of sustainability:

Environmental Pillars

  1. Waste/Recycling
  2. Transportation
  3. Food/Beverage
  4. Sourcing

Social Pillars

  1. Accessibility/Inclusion
  2. Legacy/Education

Microsoft, based in nearby Redmond and the title sponsor of the 2018 USA Games, quickly bought into the social pillars. “Education and legacy were very important to Microsoft,” Jessen noted. “Inclusion, especially fair hiring practices, also was a big deal to them. And when you think about it, the Special Olympics demonstrates inclusion by its very existence!”

“Education and legacy was a home run,” chimed in Reeve. ”

 

BIGGEST ENVIRONMENTAL SUCCESSES: WASTE AND TRANSPORTATION

The environmental sustainability portion was more challenging. The success stories came from waste and transportation.

“Our waste-to-recycling program and food donations programs worked really well, thanks in large part to the University of Washington food service team,” reported Reeve. “Recycling is one of the most highly visible examples of a greening program at a sports event so we had to get that right. And we did.”

 

Special Olympics Green Team Volunteers success story

Green Team Volunteers sorting recycling, compost, and food donations (Photo credit: Tim Reeve)

 

Coca-Cola pitched in by bringing their reverse vending machines to the event. Fans and athletes would put empty plastics into the machine and a 5¢ donation would be made to Special Olympics for each donation. Per Muller, “Final numbers were not made public but it’s safe to say that thousands of bottles were recaptured.”

“Transportation was also a big win — that’s where we saw the biggest greenhouse gas emissions reductions,” added Muller. “The University of Washington was a great set up — it’s compact, very walkable and is located on a transit route. There is a robust bike share infrastructure at UW. Energy efficient shuttles ferried athletes and their families to and from events. And Lyft provided discounted as well as free ride sharing.”

 

Special Olympics Light Rail

Athletes and coaches taking light rail to T-Mobile Park (formerly Safeco Field) for the Special Olympics’ Night at the Ballpark (Photo credit: Cori Dixon)

 

The nearly 4,000 athletes and their families noticed Seattle’s greening efforts around the Special Olympics.

“We had numerous conversations with athletes and their families during the Special Olympics and they were really impressed by the city’s commitment to making this a green event,” recalled Reeve. “A sustainability passport was provided for the athletes for things like transportation so they were involved with the greening effort almost as soon as they arrived in the city.”

In a survey conducted after the Special Olympics among athletes and their families by Brian McCullough of Seattle University showed that 60 percent said, “My attitude toward environmental sustainably has improved due to the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games initiatives.”

 

TIME WAS THE SUSTAINABILITY TEAM’S BIGGEST ENEMY

Here’s a note to the leadership group that is organizing the 2022 Special Olympics USA for Orlando: Jessen, Muller and Reeve agreed that a year was not nearly enough time to maximize the effectiveness of a sustainability plan.

“Lack of time really challenged us in terms of getting buy-in on the value proposition of a robust sustainability effort from the CEO and Executive Committee,” noted Reeve. “That kind of early support would have been crucial in terms of being woven into the budgeting and sourcing processes, as well as securing sustainability-focused sponsors. That would have helped us on food donation, signage and more.”

The team had a plan to offset emissions but there was no budget for it.

“About 90 percent of event emissions came from air travel,” Muller said. “We were looking at offset costs ranging from $25,000-$60,000 but there was no budget for it. Had we started earlier, we certainly could’ve found a partner to fund the offsets.”

What kind of time frame would be ideal to develop and manage an effective sustainability effort at a Special Olympics?

Consider that planners for the FIFA 2026 World Cup in Canada, Mexico and the USA will have eight years to get sustainability right, and the organizers at the LA 2028 Olympics will have had eleven years since being award the Games in 2017.

Now, no one is saying that the Special Olympics USA is of a similar scale as those two mega events.

Given that’s the case, what is the ideal length of time to put a sustainability plan in place that the team would be proud of?

The verdict was unanimous:

“Three years!,” said Judges Jessen, Muller and Reeve.

 

 


 

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Dominic Thiem, World’s 4th Ranked Tennis Player Makes His Mark as Eco-Athlete

Dominic Thiem has steadily moved towards the top of the men’s tennis rankings, currently residing at number four, just below the legendary trio of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer. Many tennis observers think that 2019 will be the year Austrian breaks through and wins his first Grand Slam tournament.

If so, casual tennis fans will learn what real aficionados already know — that Thiem is an eco-athlete.

 

DOMINIC THIEM WRITES A UNIQUE GREEN-SPORTS STORY — ON CAMERA LENSES

If you are not a serious tennis fan you might not be familiar with Dominic Thiem (pronounced TEAM).

You should be, for both on- and off-court reasons.

Thiem is currently the fourth ranked player in the men’s game, trailing only #1 Novak Djokovic, #2 Rafa Nadal, and #3 Roger Federer. And since the three legends above him are between six and twelve years his senior, Thiem is in a very promising spot.

The first part of 2019 has been very good for the 25-year-old Austrian. He won the prestigious BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, California, beating Federer in the final. And last week, he reached the semifinals of the Mutua Madrid Open, defeating Federer in a terrific quarterfinal before falling to eventual champion Djokovic. Thiem has the all-surface game that make him a threat at the three remaining 2019 grand slam championships, starting in two weeks with the French Open at Paris’ Roland Garros.

Off the court, Thiem has become one of men’s tennis’ foremost eco-athletes, along with world #8 Kevin Anderson. Both have honed in on the plastic ocean waste issue.

Thiem supports the work of 4Ocean, a nonprofit founded by two surfers that removes plastics from the oceans and other waterways. It sustains itself by selling bracelets made from that waste. 4Ocean reports that, in just two years, they and their teams of fishermen and others, have removed over four million pounds of trash from the oceans and coastlines.

 

Dominic Thiem

Dominic Thiem, the world’s eighth ranked men’s tennis player, sports four bracelets made from ocean waste by 4Oceans (Photo credit: Polygram)

 

In addition to donning the 4Ocean bracelets, Thiem has used a yellow marker to great effect in publicizing his passion for cleaning up the oceans.

 

Dominic Thiem Play Ocean

 

Signing a television camera lens has been a thing for winners of tennis matches for the better part of two decades. The networks almost always give air time to these signatures. Thiem has taken to signing camera lenses around the world with a “Play For the Ocean” message. The image above (Photo credit: Amazon Prime) was taken immediately after he won the championship at Indian Wells.

While we don’t have TV ratings data for either tournament, it’s safe to say that the Play For The Ocean message has reached millions. That number stands to increase dramatically should Thiem make a deep run in Paris.

 

GSB’s Take: Dominic Thiem’s practice of signing “Play For The Ocean” on a TV camera after winning a match — while seeming like a small, cute thing — is actually a big deal.

Tennis is one of the world’s five most popular spectator sports so having a Top Five player make a clear, positive statement on behalf of environmental action can seep into fan consciousness. By signing “Play For The Ocean” every time he wins a match, Thiem is building frequency for his message. This is crucial for building awareness “Play For The Ocean” among tennis fans, which will ultimately help the message break through.

Hopefully, we’re not that far away from Thiem or another top player writing something like “Price Carbon” or “Act On Climate” on a camera lens after every win.

 


 

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Two More UN Sports for Climate Action Signees: U of Colorado Athletics and AEG

The UN’s Sports for Climate Action Framework has had a great month, USA-sports-wise. After gaining commitments from the New York Yankees and the NBA, the Framework added the University of Colorado’s athletics department, on of the leaders at the intersection of Green & College Sports, and AEG, the world’s #1 sports and entertainment venue owner/manager.

 

U OF COLORADO BECOMES FIRST COLLEGIATE ATHLETICS DEPARTMENT TO SIGN ON TO SPORTS FOR CLIMATE ACTION FRAMEWORK

The University of Colorado Buffaloes last week became the first college/university athletics department in the USA to commit to the UN’s Sports For Climate Action agreement and its two main objectives:

  1. Achieve a clear trajectory for the global sports community to combat climate change
  2. Leverage sports as a unifying tool to drive climate awareness and action among global citizens.

GreenSportsBlog readers will not be surprised.

The Buffaloes have been Green-College Sports trail blazers for more than a decade, dating back to the 2008 launch of the groundbreaking Ralphie’s Green Stampede sports-sustainability program. Since then, CU Athletics:

  • Became the first major college sports program to implement a zero waste program at all of its game day venues.
  • Earned LEED Platinum certification in 2016 for a major athletics facilities upgrade thanks in part to a net-zero-energy Indoor Practice Facility that boasts an 850-kilowatt rooftop solar array. Its basketball and volleyball practice facility was also built to LEED Platinum standards.
  • Pushed to reduce the use of pesticides on turf fields.

 

Folsom Field

Aerial view of Folsom Field (r), home of University of Colorado Buffaloes football; Franklin Field, and the solar-powered Indoor Practice Facility in the foreground. (Photo credit: University of Colorado Athletics)

 

“We’re thrilled to be an early adopter of the U.N. Sports for Climate Action Framework,” said CU Athletic Director Rick George. “This is consistent with the leadership and excellence expected by CU Boulder students, faculty, staff, alumni and fans as we confront the critical issue of climate change.”

Dave Newport, Director of CU’s Environmental Center, sees the Athletics Department’s decision to join the Framework as just one more example of college sports’ unique ability to accelerate the Green-Sports movement’s impact.

“All college sports are the ‘front porch of the university’ as the saying goes,” Newport noted. “When a college sports team goes big on green, they elevate and leverage that college’s or university’s very considerable educational, research, and cultural climate impacts.”

 

Dave Newport

Dave Newport, Director of the Environmental Center at University of Colorado, Boulder (Photo credit: Dave Newport)

 

GSB’s Take: Hopefully, CU Athletics’ decision to sign on to the Sports For Climate Action Framework will lead other already-greening college athletics departments to do the same. College sports, with its many millions of fans, and universities more broadly, with their many thousands of students studying climate change and other environmental topics, form an ideal petri dish for Green-Sports innovation. I’m sure CU Athletics will benefit from being part of Sports for Climate Action, and Sports for Climate Action will certainly benefit from having CU Athletics on board.

 

SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT GIANT AEG ALSO JOINS “SPORTS FOR CLIMATE ACTION” ROSTER

The impact of getting the commitment of AEG, the world’s leading sports and live entertainment organization, to sign on to Sports For Climate Action, is much bigger than signing up one company.

That is because these AEG-owned teams also signed on, becoming the first in their respective leagues to do so:

And the company’s Amgen Tour of California — the state’s premiere bike race on the UCI World Tour and — also committed to the Framework, as did AEG Rugby.

“AEG is proud to support the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework,” said John Marler, Vice President of Energy and Environment, AEG. “Given our recently adopted greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal – which aligns with the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report on limiting global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius – this is a natural next step for our sports teams that will complement our existing efforts to reduce our carbon emissions and to raise awareness about this critical global challenge.”

 

Marler

John Marler, AEG’s Vice President of Energy and Environment (Photo credit: AEG)

 

UN Head of Global Climate Action, Niclas Svenningsen happily welcomed AEG to the fold, noting that the company “has built significant global trust and moral leadership, and – because sports touch on every cross-section of society – drives positive change throughout the world.”

 

GSB’s Take: The most important nugget in the AEG-Sports For Climate Action story for me is the company’s decision to tie its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions goals to those of the Paris Climate Agreement’s target.

To be clear, if companies and governments only achieve the Paris targets, the world still will not have gotten to the levels of GHG reductions necessary.

But Paris is an important starting goal. The hope is that AEG and many other companies in all industries will not only make their Paris-based targets, but blow by them.

 


 

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NBA Signs On To UN’s Sports for Climate Action Framework; Who’s Got Next?

The UNFCCC’s Sports For Climate Action Framework has gotten some serious traction from the US sports world recently. Last month, the New York Yankees became the first pro sports team to sign on to the framework. And yesterday, the NBA became the first pro league to make the commitment.

 

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) announced yesterday that the NBA had become the first pro sports league in the US to sign on to its Sports for Climate Action initiative.

 

NBA UNFCCC

The UNFCCC’s tweet announcing that the NBA signed on to the Sports for Climate Action Framework

Launched in December, the Framework’s aim is to bring the sports industry’s greenhouse emissions in line with the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement and inspire others to take ambitious climate action.

The Framework welcomes the NBA to its impressive list of A-List early adapters, including FIFA, the IOC, Fédération Française de Tennis, FFT, and the New York Yankees. Signatories commit to support Sport for Climate Action’s five core principles:

 

  1. Undertake systematic efforts to promote greater environmental responsibility
  2. Reduce overall climate impact
  3. Educate for climate action
  4. Promote sustainable and responsible consumption
  5. Advocate for climate action through communication

With its massive global fan base and its particular popularity among millennials and Gen-Z’ers, the NBA is a terrific get for the Framework. According to the league:

  • The NBA has 150 million followers on social media
  • One billion people around the world have access to the NBA Finals
  • It is the most popular sports league in China, where over 300 million people play basketball
  • The NBA, in collaboration with FIBA, basketball’s international governing body, will launch the Basketball Africa League (BAL) in 12 countries¹ in January

Signing on to the Sports for Climate Action Framework is certainly the biggest green step taken by the league to date. Its sustainability foundation has largely been built by forward-leaning teams and a smattering of eco-athletes:

  • The Sacramento Kings’ Golden 1 Center became the world’s first arena to earn LEED Platinum certification.

 

Golden 1 Center

Golden 1 Center, LEED Platinum home of the Sacramento Kings (Photo credit: Sacramento Kings)

 

  • Portland’s Trail Blazers have hosted five “Green Games” per season at the Moda Center since 2015. The club invites its fans to take an active part in its efforts to be more environmentally conscious and to help reach a set of green goals (around energy, waste, food, water, and transportation) at the arena by 2025.
  • Malcolm Brogdon, of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals-bound Milwaukee Bucks, along with four other NBA players, launched Hoops₂O to teach East Africans to dig wells for fresh water.

 

GSB’s Take: Kudos to the NBA for joining the Sports for Climate Action Framework. Given the NBA’s brand image — cool, progressive, cutting edge — GSB will explore in the coming months if this commitment will be the beginning of a full-throated approach to the climate change fight from commissioner Adam Silver, its teams, sponsors and more of its players. I may sound like a broken record but, per the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), humanity has 12 years to cut our carbon emissions by 45 percent in order to avoid the most calamitous effects of climate change.

 

 

Adam Silver, commissioner of the NBA (Photo credit: NBA)

 

Beyond basketball, in the parlance of playground hoops, the question becomes “Who’s Got Next?” — as in which leagues and events will join the NBA in signing on to the Sports For Climate Action Framework. I am surprised the NHL, the only league to issue a sustainability report — it has done so twice — has not joined the Framework. Hopefully that will change soon. The US Tennis Association, which has a very strong greening track record, seems like a logical signee sometime before the US Open starts in August.

You may ask, “What about the NFL, MLB, and MLS?”

Great question. Whaddya say, commissioners Roger Goodell (NFL), Rob Manfred (MLB), and Don Garber (MLS)? 

 

¹ Teams from Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia expected to be represented in BAL

 


 

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Severe Flooding Forces Davenport, Iowa Minor League Baseball Club on the Road for Weeks

The historic and deadly flooding that has crippled the Midwest through the winter and into the spring, and caused billions of dollars in damage to farms and infrastructure, has forced Davenport, Iowa’s minor league baseball team to the road for most of the six week old season.

 

In “Field of Dreams,” the iconic 1989 film homage to fathers, sons and small-town baseball, the long-deceased Shoeless Joe Jackson, played by Ray Liotta, reappears in uniform on a field that’s bordered by acres of corn. Protagonist Ray Kinsella, played by Kevin Costner, an anonymous, baseball-loving farmer, had built the field in his backyard to somehow attract his deceased dad, a one-time minor leaguer, from the great beyond.

Thanks to time travel and poetic license, Shoeless Joe, two teams worth of early 20th century baseball greats, and Ray’s dad all emerged from the corn fields as young men to play a game. Kinsella and his younger-than-himself dad famously played catch and then the young-but-deceased ballplayers returned to from whence they came, walking back into the corn.

Shoeless Joe was the last to go.

Before disappearing into the corn, he famously asked Ray, “Is this heaven?”

Ray’s reply? “No, it’s Iowa”

 

 

 

QUAD CITIES RIVER BANDITS IN FIRST PLACE, DESPITE AN UN-HEAVENLY, FLOOD RAVAGED EARLY SEASON

Residents of Davenport and other sections of Eastern Iowa that abut the Mississippi River might use a descriptor other than heavenly to describe the prolonged, massive flooding that has persisted since winter.

The river’s rising waters, which are forecast to affect millions across as many as 25 states through the summer, have made it impossible for the Quad City River Bandits, Davenport’s Class A minor league baseball club affiliated with the Houston Astros, to play at home for most of the season’s first six weeks.

That the team is somehow in first place in the Midwest League’s Western Division after 30 games played mostly on the road is astounding. They’ve been Road Warriors because they can’t access their stadium as it is surrounded by water.

Modern Woodmen Park, the River Bandit’s home field, is saved from floodwaters by a levee system. It can be reached during some floods, thanks to a 21 foot high catwalk. But that was not enough to deal with the record-high water that hit 22.64 feet on May 2nd, the day after a flood wall unexpectedly broke, according to the National Weather Service.

 

River Bandits Stadium

Modern Woodmen Park and downtown Davenport is seen from the air as flood waters flowed into the city on Wednesday, May 1. A flood wall broke the day before, sending water to near record levels with little to no warning (Photo credit: Brian Powers/The Des Moines Register)

 

Per a May 4 story by Phil McCausland on nbcnews.com, that means “the players are unable to practice regularly, stadium employees have had to find other jobs and the team has known little else than the road for most of the season.”

“They have had three practices at our field,” general manager Jacqueline Holm told McCausland. “They’ve barely been on the field. It’s been difficult for them to do anything. We’ve basically had to use the team bus as a clubhouse and storage unit.”

Davenport, with a population of 103,000, has in fared better than most other towns along the Mississippi’s most flood-prone sections, thanks to a unique flood protection system.

McCausland noted that many towns along the Mississippi River have built flood walls to protect against rising waters, but Davenport has gone in a different direction for decades. Instead, it has worked to build flood-resistant buildings and created a riverwalk area around the ballpark that can accommodate the additional water. A temporary berm system can also be built when necessary.

“We have embraced the Mississippi River,” Frank Klipsch, Davenport’s mayor since 2016, said. “It has become more and more popular to take on this kind of resiliency plan because if we put up a wall, it makes it worse for communities further downriver.”

 

Image: Davenport Iowa Flooding
Ryan Lincoln maneuvers his boat through flood waters on May 2, 2019 in Davenport, Iowa (Photo credit: 
Kevin E. Schmid/Quad-City Times via Zuma Press)

 

Some unlucky business owners saw multiple feet of water flow into their restaurants and storefronts last week when a temporary levee, which had already stood for 40 days this year, suddenly broke.

This kind of flooding is not something most of the River Bandits players, most in their late teens to early 20s, could have imagined. It makes their already difficult road to reaching the major leagues even tougher.

Manager Ray Hernandez praised his young players’ resiliency and ability to maintain focus despite the challenges. But the first-year skipper admitted he didn’t have all the answers.

“Even if it was my 15th season managing, I don’t know if I would know how to handle this,” Hernandez told McCausland. “I mean, who would I even call to ask and get advice?”

 

MINOR LEAGUE SPORTS PARTICULARLY VULNERABLE TO EXTREME WEATHER

It stands to reason that minor league teams, no matter the sport, are much more susceptible to the harsh effects of extreme weather and climate change than their wealthier major league counterparts.

A number of lower division English football/soccer clubs have been buffeted by flooding in recent years. In some cases, the impacts have bordered on the existential.

Andrew Gate, writing in the April 30 issue of Ecologistcited these examples:

  • Sixth tier Gloucester City AFC have yet to have a permanent stadium after floods destroyed their former home Meadow Park in 2007. A plan was approved on May 3 to build a new venue on the same site.
  • Flooding nearly meant the end of 127-year old Tadcaster Albion, currently playing in the eighth tier, not once, but twice. Water completely submerged the club’s Ings Lane Stadium in 2015 and again this March. The club’s press officer Jay Taylor noted that the club faces an uncertain future if such flooding happens again.

 

Ings Lane

Flooding submerged Tadcaster Albion’s Ings Lane Stadium in March (Photo credit: Tadcaster Albion)

 

  • Ramsbottom United, also in the eighth tier, has had to battle back from flooding twice, in 2012 and 2015 their home was completely submerged. Club Secretary Tony Cunningham told Gate that, “In 2015, the dressing rooms, the teabar and even the elevated Sponsors Lounge were submerged. It took us well over £40,000 ($US52,010 today) to get the club back up and running.”

 

For a club in the lower reaches of English football, an unexpected £40,000 hit can be crushing. Ramsbottom United, thanks to prudent management, has been able to withstand the flood-related costs until now.

But there are no guarantees going forward.

 


 

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