GSB News and Notes: Formula-E Is a Hit In Brooklyn; D.C.’s New Audi Field Goes Green via Green Bonds; Study Shows Winter Sports Fans Support Athlete Engagement on Climate Change

Here is a GSB News & Notes column for your mid-summer reading pleasure: Formula-E, the all-electric vehicle racing circuit, came to New York City (Red Hook, Brooklyn, to be exact) for the first time ever with two races over the weekend. Audi Field, the future home of Major League Soccer’s D.C. United, will open with both a solar array and stormwater storage that was funded in part by an innovative, DC-based green bond program. And a small research study conducted at the 2017 Nordic World Ski Championships in Lahti, Finland this February demonstrated that fans are very receptive to climate change statements from professional skiers.

 

FORMULA-E A HIT IN BROOKLYN

The Red Hook neighborhood in Brooklyn is not normally associated with great New York City sporting events. There are no stadiums nor arenas nearby. Subways are nowhere to be found.

But this weekend, the quiet if increasingly hip waterfront section of town was quiet no more as its streets played host to the first-ever automobile road race in New York City history—and it happened to be one that featured only electric vehicles (EVs).

England’s Sam Bird won both rounds of the Qualcomm New York City ePrix, the ninth and 10th rounds of Formula-E’s 2016-17 season on Saturday and Sunday. Bird drives for DS Virgin Racing, owned by sustainable business innovator Sir Richard Branson. Formula-E, now nearing the end of its third campaign, is the world’s first and only all-EV racing series.

 

Formula E Bird 2nd Steven Tee:LAT Images:FIA Formula E via Getty Images

Sam Bird, driving in the red car on the left, starts off in second place in the Qualcomm New York City ePrix on Saturday in Red Hook, Brooklyn. (Photo credit: Steven Tee/LAT Images/FIA Formula E via Getty Images)

 

Formula-E Branson Bird Stephane Sarrazin

But while Bird (c) started in second, he finished in first in both the Saturday and Sunday legs, earning a Champagne Shower from Sir Richard Branson (l) and DS Virgin Racing teammate Stéphane Sarrazin. (Photo credit: Kevin Hagen, Getty Images)

 

While exact attendance figures have not been released, the Associated Press reported that “thousands attended thraces, packing two metal grandstands overlooking the track…Organizers ran shuttle buses from Barclays Center to the race site about three miles away. There were also ride-share stations, a bicycle valet and water taxis and ferries from Manhattan.”

And, according to a CNN.com story by Matthew Knight, Brooklyn and Formula-E share an understandable affinity for renewable energy: “Formula-E [didn’t provide] too much of a drain on local electrical supplies during its visit — all the race cars [were] charged using carbon-neutral glycerine generators provided by British firm Aquafuel.”

New York City’s entrance into EV road racing adds another top tier metropolis to Formula-E’s already impressive roster, which includes Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, Paris and Montreal, host of the season finale at the end of this month.

 

AUDI FIELD TO SPORT SOLAR, STORMWATER STORAGE, FINANCED BY GREEN BOND

Audi Field, the new home of Major League Soccer’s (MLS’) D.C. United that’s set to open next year, will be on the forefront of green stadium design and performance:

  • An 884 kW solar array, installed by local vendor New Columbia Solar, will be situated on the stadium’s canopy and in other areas of the site.
  • There will storage for more than 55,000 cubic feet of stormwater on site through green roofs, bio-retention areas, and infiltration basins.
  • Energy and water efficient technologies will be employed throughout the stadium.

 

Audi Field

Artist’s rendering of Audi Field, the new home of D.C. United (Credit: D.C United)

 

According to a story by Jennifer Hermes in the July 10 issue of Environmental Leaderthe measures described above “are being funded through the [capital district’s Department of Energy and Environment’s] D.C. PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) program’s green financing solution, which operates through a public-private partnership, allowing local lenders to fund environmentally beneficial projects at no cost to taxpayers.” The $25 million deal, done through a relationship with locally-based EagleBank, is the nation’s largest single PACE note issued to date, according to D.C. United.

Per Hermes, PACE’s funding will also include resources for “high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, LED field lighting, additional building insulation, and low-flow water fixtures.” D.C. PACE asserts these measures will result in a 25% reduction in energy use and will reduce emissions by 820 metric tons of CO2 annually, saving the club an estimated $125,000 annually on utility bills.

Writing in the July 6 issue of CurbedPatrick Sisson noted that, in addition to PACE’s clean energy deal, the project also includes a $95 million loan from Goldman Sachs.

While public financing of stadiums and arenas has, in the main, not proven to be a good deal for taxpayers, perhaps Audi Field’s green bonds approach will provide an innovative exception—as well as become a model for other stadiums and cities. Writes Sisson: “Funding these types of designs or retrofits saves owners money, may prolong the useful life of an existing stadium, helps cities cut emissions, and sets an example for other projects in the community (In less than two years, the D.C. PACE program has provided $30 million in private capital for projects including small businesses, affordable multifamily housing, and a charter school).”

While D.C. United’s colors are red and black, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has bought in to the club’s greenness, saying in a statement that the stadium will boost local economic development and create good green jobs for District workers, “all without costing DC government a cent.”

 

RESEARCH SHOWS SKI FANS REACT POSITIVELY TO CLIMATE CHANGE STATEMENTS FROM ATHLETES

The sample size was very small, so the conclusions drawn can only be directional rather than definitive.

But.

Research conducted in February by M Inc., in collaboration with Protect Our Winters Finland, at the 2017 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Lahti, Finland demonstrated that sports fans—at least a small sample of Nordic skiing fans in Europe— welcome climate change messaging from athletes.

A group of athletes who took part in the Championships gave video statements to their fans as to 1) why it is important to care about climate change and, 2) how we all can help in the climate change fight by changing a few specific behaviors. 44 spectators, chosen at random, were asked to view this 45-second edited video athlete statement and fill in a short questionnaire to measure what they thought of it.

 

 

The study’s conclusion?

Fans at the Championships were very receptive to climate change statements from pro skiers – across age, gender, nationality and whether they ski themselves or not. Fans also said that they felt much more motivated to change some of their behavior in support of the climate change fight (8.12 average on a scale of 1-10).

When asked, in an open-ended question, what they liked the most about the video statement, 51 per cent of the fans mentioned that professional athletes were giving the statement. Some of these fans also emphasized that professional athletes were showing their passion about the issue, that they formed an international mix and that it was a positive message.

GreenSportsBlog’s conclusion?

The Green-Sports world needs to fund and conduct more research, among a wide cross section of sports fans, on fan attitudes, in North America, Europe and beyond, towards environmental issues, including climate change. The studies must consist of fans who go to sports events and, this is important, the much larger group of fans who consume sports on TV, online, radio and newspapers. In fact, these studies need to be conducted every 1-2 years to see how fans’ awareness of, and attitudes towards green-sports are changing over time.

The only major, quantifiable study that I know of was conducted on North American sports fans (defined as people who attend at least two sports events per year) by Turnkey Sports & Entertainment in 2014 and funded by the Green Sports Alliance. In research terms, that’s ancient history. And, while the M Inc. study is helpful, the small sample size means that the takeaways have to taken with a grain of salt.

 


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GSB News and Notes: Innovative Run For The Oceans on World Oceans Day; DC’s Verizon Center Adds Solar; Cooper Helfet, Oakland Raiders Eco-Athlete, Helps Launch The Nature Project

Adidas, along with nonprofit partner Parley for the Oceans and Runtastic, sponsors Run For The Oceans, a series of digital runs across the globe and an actual 5K in NYC on World Oceans Day (June 8) to bring attention to the plastic ocean waste and ocean health crises. Washington, DC, a city that can use some sensible sustainability news these days, sees the Verizon Center, home to the NBA’s Wizards and NHL’s Capitals, add solar power to its energy mix. And Cooper Helfet, tight end for the Oakland Raiders, enters the ranks of eco-athletes by co-founding The Nature Project, bringing underserved youth in Washington State. Enjoy your cool News & Notes column on a hot (in New York City at least) Tuesday.

 

ADIDAS, PARLEY FOR THE OCEANS, RUNTASTIC TEAM UP TO SPONSOR DIGITAL + IN PERSON RUNS FOR THE OCEANS

59,136, and 358,150.

Those two numbers represent the total runners and the aggregate miles run in the first #RunForTheOceans during World Oceans Week, June 5-11 and, in particular, on World Oceans Day, June 8. Sponsored by adidas and nonprofit partner Parley for the Oceans, and fitness tracking app Runtastic, the event aggregated the efforts of runners all over the world to raise awareness of the plastic ocean waste issue and other environmental problems plaguing our waterways.

“Digital runners,” no matter their location, logged their mileage on Runtastic. While they ran, they listened to a dedicated playlist to learn more about ocean ecosystems, which are enduring plastic pollution, oil spills and the effects of climate change, including bleached coral reefs and species-threatening acidification.

On World Oceans Day, June 8, the focus was New York City as adidas and Parley hosted an evening in-person 5K run and after-party. The streets along the route were illuminated with blue lights to reflect undersea tones.

 

Manhattan Bridge

The Brooklyn side of the Manhattan Bridge, illuminated in blue for the Run for the Oceans 5K on World Oceans Day, June 8, sponsored by adidas, Parley for the Oceans and Runtastic. (Photo credit: adidas/Parley for the Oceans/Runtastic)

 

Run for the Oceans

Runners gather for the Run for the Oceans 5K in New York City. (Photo credit: adidas/Parley for the Oceans/Runtastic)

 

The adidas-Parley for the Oceans partnership should be familiar to GSB readers: In March, we reported on the launch of the company’s UltraBOOST Uncaged Parley sneaker, made from 95 percent plastic ocean waste dredged from the ocean around the Maldives, an archipelago that is existentially threatened by climate change off the southern coast of India. Parley for the Oceans, an environmental nonprofit that draws much-needed attention to ocean pollution and waste, has worked with adidas in the design and marketing of the shoe, on a swimwear line and, now, on Run for the Oceans.

 

Parley

Some of the Run for the Oceans runners wore the adidas UltraBOOST Uncaged Parley shoe, made from 95 percent plastic ocean waste. (Photo credit: adidas/Parley for the Oceans)

 

The 2017 edition of Run for the Oceans is just the start. Plans are being developed for a bigger and better 2018—the host city for the in person run is, at present, TBD.

No matter the location, adidas clearly sees the transformative power of Green-Sports. Eric Liedtke, the adidas executive board member responsible for global brands, said in a statement that “At the heart of our brand is the belief that through sport, we have the power to change lives. With the Run for the Oceans, we’re using this power of sport to inspire action.”

 

SOLAR POWER COMES TO VERIZON CENTER

Verizon Center, the downtown Washington, D.C. home of the NBA’s Wizards, WNBA’s Mystics, NHL’s Capitals, and Georgetown Hoyas basketball, is greening. Team and venue owner Monumental Sports & Entertainment announced a partnership last week with Virginia-based WGL Energy Services that will enable the Verizon Center to operate using 25 percent solar energy.

 

Verizon Center

Verizon Center during a Wizards game (Photo credit: Clark Construction)

 

“Sustainability is at the core of our operations across all of Monumental Sports & Entertainment,” Dave Touhey, its president of venues, said in a statement. “We are excited to expand our energy relationship with WGL Energy by entering into this new partnership to bring more renewable energy to Verizon Center.”

Monumental Sports & Entertainment will purchase solar electricity from a third-party-owned solar facility in Frederick County, Md. (about halfway between Washington and Harrisburg, PA), and receive about 4.7 million kWh per year of energy beginning in late 2017 as part of a long-term contract.

“Offsite renewable energy is one of the fastest-growing sectors within the energy industry,” WGL VP and chief revenue officer Louis J. Hutchinson III said in a statement. “As renewable energy offerings continue to mature, it’s exciting to see the sports industry play a major role in sourcing offsite renewable energy.”

The impact for now will be small but meaningful: WGL Energy reports that the carbon emissions avoided as a result of the new arrangement are equivalent to taking nearly 700 cars off the road for one year. It says here that, as the price of solar power continues to drop, Monumental Sports & Entertainment and WGL will up the percentage of Verizon Center electricity generated directly from the sun.

WGL has been the official energy partner of Verizon Center since 2015 and, according to a June 8 story by Scott Allen in The Washington Post, the partnership has reaped some early environmental benefits: “Later this month, Monumental Sports & Entertainment will be honored as one of the Green Sports Alliance’s Innovators of the Year for counterbalancing ‘more than 3,123 tons of greenhouse gas emissions from 201 events’ at Verizon Center in 2016 with carbon offsets.”

While the Trump Administration and other sectors of the federal government are moving backwards with appalling alacrity on climate change and the environment, D.C. area teams, in addition to those housed in the Verizon Center, are moving forward. Nationals Park, home of MLB’s Washington Nationals, was the first professional sports stadium to receive LEED Silver certification when it opened in 2008. The NFL’s Washington Redskins, in a partnership with NRG, installed 8,000 solar panels in a FedEx Field parking lot in 2011. And Audi Field, the future home to Major League Soccer’s D.C. United, is expected to receive LEED Gold certification soon after it opens in 2018.

 

COOPER HELFET & THE NATURE PROJECT

Eco-athletes, to this point a relatively rare breed, are starting to grow in number. Add Cooper Helfet, tight end with the Oakland Raiders, to the list, with The Nature Project.

The brainchild of Helfet and high school pal Charles Post, The Nature Project aims to bring underserved urban youth, starting in Washington State, into nature so that they can learn to love the outdoors and experience the benefits of time spent in nature. You see, both Helfet and Post were raised by families that appreciated the value of nature, the joys of hiking, and exploring in the spectacular forests native to that part of the world.

 

Cooper Helfet

Cooper Helfet (Photo credit: The Nature Project)

 

Cooper, a top lacrosse, football and basketball player in high school, played tight end for Duke and, since 2013, has occupied the fringes of NFL rosters, mostly with the Seattle Seahawks and, as of midway through last season, the hometown Oakland Raiders. While with Seattle, Helfet helped roommate and Seahawks legend, Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch, with his community based non-profit, Fam First. After a one year retirement, Lynch signed with his hometown Raiders this offseason so he and Helfet will again be teammates.

One day in the spring of 2014, Charles and Cooper were hiking through Olympic National Park in Washington. Cooper was telling Charles about his experiences working with Fam First, and in particular his understanding that these kids, many of whom had few resources or support, may never have the opportunity to spend a day on the trail or camping under the starts. He talked about wanting to create an opportunity to bring these and other underserved youth into nature so that they too could learn to love the outdoors and experience the benefits of time spent in nature. Charles, who received both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Ecology from the University of California, Berkeley and taught courses in field biology and American environmental history as a graduate student instructor, was quick to build upon Cooper’s ideas.

It took three years and $70,000 to put The Nature Project’s vision into motion. Per Charles Post’s June 9 blog post, The Nature Project earlier this spring “brought 200 4th and 5th graders into nature so that they could experience a three day, three night stay at Islandwood—an award winning outdoor education retreat on Bainbridge Island west of Seattle. Joining them, in addition to Helfet, were Seattle Seahawks players Sidney Rice, DeShawn Shed, Jermaine Kerse, Olympic swimmer Emily Silver, mountain athlete and artist Rachel Pohl and members of the University of Washington basketball team.”

 

Sidney Rice

Sidney Rice of the Seattle Seahawks and 4th and 5th graders enjoy a day in the woods through The Nature Project. (Photo credit: The Nature Project)

 

Helfet reacted to the first The Nature Project event as though he had won a Super Bowl, which he did as a member of the Seahawks in 2014^: “The radiant smiles spread across the faces of [the] boys and girls spending their first days in the outdoors gave me an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for getting to share those moments with them. Sometimes it seems as though I forget how magical our natural world can be until you see those wonders through a kid’s eyes experiencing the natural world for the first time…I found myself brimming with joy as I watched kids planted in nature as they climbed trees, ate stinging nettle, saw owls and bald eagles for the first time—all within a few hours of their home communities. Being in the presence of these transformative moments impacted me and the other athletes deeply. ”

 

^ The Seattle Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII, 43-8, over the Denver Broncos at Met Life Stadium in New Jersey

 

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