News and Notes

Baseball Grows Greens, Soccer Goes Solar


As we enter one of the busiest sports weekends of the year (NFL Draft*, Kentucky Derby, Game 7-Spurs @ Clippers, Stanley Cup Playoffs 2nd round, Mayweather-Pacquiao title fight), we are also in the midst of a busy stretch at the intersection of Green and Sports.

So it’s time to close the week with a GSB News and Notes column.



The recent start of the Major League Baseball (MLB) season saw some early surprises on the field (Mets, Astros) and some interesting stories about the greening of the game off of it.

One example comes from Steve Holt of Take Part Magazine. In “Forget Peanuts and Cracker Jack: These MLB Teams Have Stadium-Grown Greens”, Holt details how MLB teams like the Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres are growing “fresh vegetables not typically found in baseball stadiums—arugula, Swiss chard, and broccoli-rabe” in gardens installed on their ballpark roofs. While I’m quite certain the lyrics of “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” will not change to “buy me some Swiss chard and bro-co-li-rabe” anytime soon, it is heartening to see that some teams get that fans want healthy food options when they go out “to the old ball game.”

Per Chris Knight, the Red Sox’ manager of facility planning and services, the club sees Fenway Farms, the 103 year old stadium’s highly visible rooftop garden, as a great way to “‘make an impact for the environment and nutrition.” Holt does point out that the Red Sox and Padres still offer less-than-nutritious offerings but also notes that “a 2014 study of a healthy-food overhaul of a concession stand at a high-school athletics facility found that the changes had no negative effect on concessions sales and even improved overall satisfaction among parents.”

And GSB has shared how Forest Green Rovers, a 5th tier English football (soccer) club, garnered positive fan reaction from its switch to all-vegan concession stands (more on FGR later in this post.) Thus a small trend for healthy, home grown food at ballparks and arena is sprouting–at first in places you’d expect–Blue state cities like Boston, Denver and San Diego. Hopefully the Red state ballparks are on deck! So next time you go to a ball game, look up to the roof–who knows, you may see your salad growing up there!


Fenway Farms

Workers planting produce at Fenway Farms on the roof of Fenway Park in Boston. Fenway is one of 4 MLB stadia to add rooftop gardens this season, with the others being Coors Park, Denver; AT&T Park, San Francisco; and Petco Park, San Diego. (Photo credit: Maureen White, Take Part)



There’s not a redder state than Utah. In 2012, it gave Republican Mitt Romney his largest margin of any state as he carried 72% of the vote. Since it’s an understatement to say that antipathy for climate change and things green are staples of Republican politics these days, it’s heartening to see that solar is beginning to flourish in Utah.

Chris Kamrani, writing in the Earth Day edition of the Salt Lake Tribune, shared that Rio Tinto Stadium, home to Real Salt Lake of Major League Soccer, will soon be home to the state’s largest solar array.

In fact, notes Kamrani, the “2,020-kilowatt system of solar panels installed on the structure and [on] a new covered parking area will offset…73 percent of RSL’s total annual stadium power needs, which would be the largest [percentage] offset in North American professional sports…Rio Tinto will feature the fourth-largest solar array of any professional sports stadium on the continent, behind the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia and the Pocono Raceway in Blakleslee, Pa.” The system, developed by Auric Solar, should be operational by this October.

Now, it must be mentioned that Rio Tinto, the company that owns the naming rights to the stadium, is in the mining business, which by its nature, is not environmentally-friendly. On the other hand, the company has made a strong statement in support of the scientific consensus that climate change is real and largely human caused. And the stadium that bears its name, in the reddest state in the US, is going solar. That, it says here, is a good thing.

Rio Tinto Stadium
Rio Tinto Stadium, home of Real Salt Lake of Major League Soccer. The stadium will be home to the 4th largest solar array in North America by this October. (Photo credit: Clean Technica)



GSB recently ran a 2-part series on the “Greening of Golf” (Click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2); now the Wall Street Journal is getting into the act.

In “California’s Golf Courses Are Getting ‘Greener'” (April 24), the Journal’s golf writer John Paul Newport offers that the “golf industry appears reasonably well-positioned to deal with the state’s stringent new water restrictions, announced by Governor Jerry Brown in April,” as course managers, especially in the dryer SoCal portion of the state, “have been working on conservation for years with their local water districts…Many have replaced unnecessary acres of maintained turf with drought-tolerant native plants and installed high-efficiency irrigation systems, which by themselves can reduce water usage by up to 20%.”

Cost is a major factor–as Newport notes, “water is often the biggest single budget item for a golf course.”

Still, the golf business in California, 900 courses strong, has concerns. The 25 percent cutbacks in potable urban water usage—the first mandatory restrictions in state history–slated to go into effect by early June are a significant challenge for many course administrators and superintendents. The industry was expecting that “independent sources of water supply”—i.e. water pumped from private wells–would not be subject to the cutbacks but the Water Board ruled that it would.

Of course, when one considers that the drought, per 2014’s phenomenal nine-part series on climate change, “Years of Living Dangerously”, can already be blamed for fatalities and will likely be the cause of many more, the worries of the golf industry might be, pun intended, a drop in the bucket.




Yes, Forest Green Rovers (FGR) of English soccer’s fifth division (Vanarama Conference), is the greenest team in sports (all vegan concessions, solar powered mo-bots that mow the playing field, on site solar, etc.)
GSB loves them.

But not only are they doing great things off the pitch, they were also in the running for promotion to the fourth division (League 2), which would’ve been a big deal for the club–and greatly increase awareness of their greening efforts.

Unfortunately from the GSB point-of-view, FGR lost its two-game playoff “tie” (US sports: “series”) to Bristol Rovers, 3-0 in total.

While the promotion dream will have to wait for now, FGR is on the right track on the pitch and can be expected to contend again in 2015-2016 as it continues to green itself off the pitch.



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Russell Seymour, Chairman, British Association For Sustainable Sport (BASIS)

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