Informal GSB Poll: Atlanta United F.C. Fans Bullish About Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s Greenness

Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the world’s first LEED certified pro stadium, is playing host to 800 or so people at the eighth Green Sports Alliance Summit, from today through Wednesday. On Sunday, 42,500 mostly fans packed the place for the MLS match between Atlanta United and the Portland Timbers. GreenSportsBlog conducted a small, informal, admittedly unscientific poll among fans before the game to gauge awareness and attitudes about the stadium’s greenness.

 

The most stunning design feature to me of Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium design and architecture — and there are many from which to choose^ — is the 360-degree, “halo” scoreboard suspended from the roof.

 

MB Stadium 3

 

Clearly viewable from every seat in the house, the scoreboard constantly draws ones eyes skyward.

And during the hour before Sunday’s MLS match between Atlanta United and Portland Timbers, my eyes saw messaging like this:

 

M-B Stadium

 

The first-of-its-kind scoreboard also encouraged fans to recycle while occasional public address announcements highlighted a variety of the stadium’s green features that resulted in it becoming the first professional stadium to receive LEED Platinum status. Of course, most of the messaging on the scoreboard and on its loudspeakers had to do with the game, the home team and the terrific experience (a mix of the best of the European soccer stadium experience with an authentic Atlanta feel) — which is as it should be.

And it is working.

Atlanta United, in only its second season, has become one of the cornerstone franchises in MLS:

  • The team made the playoffs in its first season and are in first place in MLS’ Eastern Conference
  • Thousands of energetic fans, in multiple supporters’ sections, stand, chant and sing throughout the entire 90 minutes.
  • Every game is a sellout. Either in the stadium’s standard 42,500 seat configuration — like Sunday’s game (the upper deck is closed and draped) — or its full 72,000 seat mode, reserved for the biggest/rivalry matches

All of the above serves as subtext to a question to which I was trying to get some answers: Has Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s consistent yet modest way of communicating its sustainability broken through with its largely youngish fan base? GreenSportsBlog conducted a small, informal survey by talking to a few of them before Sunday’s pulsating 1-1 draw between Atlanta United and Portland Timbers to begin to find out.

 


 

Evan and Paige Himebaugh from Kennesaw, about 45 minutes away, chatted with me about soccer and sustainability at Stats Brew Pub, a couple blocks from Mercedes-Benz Stadium. They are brother-and-sister season ticket holders who are helping to make Atlanta United a “thing” in the city’s sporting culture. But neither knew that Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s had achieved LEED Platinum certification. “I had no idea!,” exclaimed Paige, a local soccer coach. “But it is great for Atlanta to be leading on green building.”

 

Evan and Paige

Evan and Paige Himebaugh were excited to learn about Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s LEED Platinum status (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)

 

Husband and wife season ticket holders Todd and Terry Barcroft of Atlanta talked and walked with me on their way to the concession stand. Both were well aware of the stadium’s green leadership. “Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s LEED status is really a point of civic pride,” asserted Terry. “And, with ‘Atlanta’s Better Building Challenge‘, people can see that the city is a green building hub.” Todd suggested that stadium management “should incorporate more signage in the concourses” to increase awareness of its sustainable bona fides.

 

Todd and terry

Todd and Terry Barcroft (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)

 

Andre Katompa was rushing to his seat and doing his best to avoid seeing the screens in the concourse showing the Colombia-Poland FIFA World Cup match (“I’m DVRing it!”) when he stopped to talk with me. “I found out about the stadium’s LEED certification on TV — there was a story about it on the sports news, which I watch religiously,” enthused the native of the Democratic Republic of Congo. “It is a great thing that the stadium is helping to fight climate change by reducing energy consumption. And that is great for Atlanta.”

 

Andre Katompa

Andre Katompa (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)

 

Up in the press box, I sat next to Atlanta area native Max Marcovitch, who was covering the match for The Oregonian. Max’s mom was his entry point into the Mercedes-Benz Stadium LEED Platinum story. “She knew someone involved with the construction of the building,” shared Marcovitch. “Every time the stadium would come up, mom would remind me, ‘it’s going to be LEED Platinum’ so I was very well aware of its greenness. I don’t think my friends [who are on the younger end of the millennial cohort] would be aware of it, but if they found out, they would think it is very cool.”

 

MY TAKE

I give the folks at Mercedes-Benz Stadium a strong A- grade for the way they communicate the venue’s sustainability story. The scoreboard and public address messaging is just right; frequent enough without being over the top. I loved one subtle touch on the scoreboard: A still photo of the Atlanta skyline, shot from the stadium, with some of its 4,000 solar panels in the foreground.

If the stadium had more sustainability-focused signage in the concourses, I would have given them a solid A. Want to earn an A+? How about an interactive exhibit for fans that tells Mercedes-Bens Stadium’s LEED Platinum story, similar to the museum-style installation# at New York City’s Empire State Building that shares the impact of its energy efficiency retrofit with the 3 million people who visit the building every year?

Finally, if you are a sports fan —green or otherwise — and/or an architecture buff, schedule a trip to Atlanta to take in a game at Mercedes-Benz. I’m sure a Falcons game would be fantastic, but I’d opt for an Atlanta United match. It is an incredible experience.

 

M-B Stadium 2a

 

^ The stunning view of the city skyline from the east end of the stadium and the camera lens-like “oculus” roof are two other “that is so cool!” features of Mercedes-Benz Stadium
# Editor’s Note: Lew Blaustein worked as a marketing and communications consultant on the Empire State Building’s sustainability exhibit in 2009 and 2010

 


 

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MLB, MLS and NFL Step Up During Earth Fortnight

Late April is a great time of year to be a sports fan. The NBA and NHL playoffs are in the early days of their two month championship/Stanley Cup marathons. The NFL Draft, Christmas in April for football fans—especially those who root for perennial also rans like my New York Jets—starts on Thursday night. Major League Baseball’s and Major League Soccer’s regular seasons are in full swing.

And we are in the midst of Earth Fortnight (Earth Day was Saturday, April 22; related celebrations were held during the week prior and are continuing this week), a great time for sports leagues to highlight their sustainability bona fides to their fans and other stakeholders. 

GreenSportsBlog will have two Earth Fortnight-Green Sports columns for you: An in-depth feature on the NBA’s greening activities is upcoming. And today, we review the Earth Day/Earth Fortnight activities of MLB, MLS, and the NFL. What about the NHL? They’re in the process of completing their third consecutive carbon-neutral season so one could say every day is Earth Day over there.

 

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL: 5TH ANNUAL CARBON NEUTRAL GAME AT FENWAY; HELPING TREES GROW IN BROOKLYN

The third Monday in April is tradition-laden in Boston. It’s Patriots’s Day (thankfully, named not in honor of the football team, but for John Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere, etc. Those Pats). The Boston Marathon snaked its way for 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston. At the early but traditional 11 AM start time, the Red Sox took the field against the Tampa Bay Rays as the marathon passed close by Fenway Park.

And, in a newer tradition, for the fifth consecutive year, the BoSox observed Earth Day by offsetting all carbon emissions from that day’s game and sorting waste to recover recyclables and food waste. The offsets were made in the form of renewable energy credits (RECs) purchased from several Massachusetts-based solar installations: Morra Brook Farm in Rehoboth, Westford Stony Brook School in Westford, and the firehouse and library in Wellfleet.

Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, on Earth Day itself, approximately 35 front office employees at MLB, MLB Network and MLB Advanced Media volunteered at Lincoln Terrace Park for New York Cares Day (Spring). New York Cares is an amazing organization that serves as a platform for New Yorkers who want to volunteer with seniors, youth, on environmental cleanup, etc. They manage over 400 such projects per month. I have been a New York Cares volunteer for over 20 years and can attest to its phenomenal work.

New York Cares Day is a massive, five borough-wide environmental cleanup and beautification initiative, pooling the efforts of over 4,000 volunteers at 40 public spaces. In the case of Lincoln Terrace Park, volunteers were tasked with composting, removing invasive seedlings, planting ground covers and clearing the park of debris.

mlb volunteers ny cares day

 

Volunteers from MLB, MLB Network and MLB Advanced Media at Earth Day cleanup in Lincoln Terrace Park in Brooklyn, NY (Photo credit: MLB)

 

MLS’ LA GALAXY AND STUBHUB CENTER “PROTECT THE PITCH” IN EARTH WEEK INITIATIVE

StubHub Center and the LA Galaxy hosted a variety of environmentally-focused community events last week in the run up to Protect the Pitch Day, their Earth Day-themed, nationally-televised home game vs. the Seattle Sounders on Sunday.

The week featured school tours of Stub Hub Center, featuring the stadium’s initiatives to reduce the carbon footprint of its operations. These range from the high-tech (on-site advanced battery storage units from Tesla) to the not-so-high-tech (four bee hives that will produce over 800 pounds of honey annually, produce grown from the LA Galaxy Greenhouse; both will be used for healthy food preparation for players, coaches and staff)

Galaxy

LA area elementary school students explore StubHub Center’s sustainability projects, such as its greenhouse which produces numerous types of vegetables to provide food for players and staff. (Photo credit: LA Galaxy)

 

And the club brought its greenness out to the community when it visited Griffith Park to assist TreePeople^ with their tree care efforts.

The Galaxy’s carbon footprint-reducing efforts, showcased to the 24,931 fans during Protect the Pitch Day, were more successful than their on-field results, as they dropped a 3-0 decision to the Sounders. In fact, the club’s greenness harkened back to happier days, as they sold tote bags from Relan, made from recycled materials from the club’s 2014 MLS Cup Championship banner, which had previously hung inside StubHub Center.

 

NFL AND PHILADELPHIA TEAM UP TO GREEN UP NFL DRAFT

200,000 diehards are expected to descend on Philadelphia as the 2017 NFL Draft comes to The City of Brotherly Love from Thursday’s first round through Saturday’s seventh stanza. According to an April 21 Philly.com story by Frank Kummer, the NFL and city officials, the latter using “what it learned from the Philadelphia Marathon, are aiming for ‘zero waste’ – meaning that at least 90 percent of trash and leftover food does not end up in a landfill.” An army of volunteers are stepping up to bring the plans to fruition at the free NFL Draft Experience festival along a half-mile stretch of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Philly

Volunteers, like those shown here at the 2016 Philadelphia Marathon, will help make the 2017 NFL Draft in Philadelphia a Zero-Waste event. (Photo credit: Green Works Philadelphia)

 

“There is going to be an impact on the City of Philadelphia and its environment,” said Jack Groh, director of the NFL’s environmental program. “So we need to step up and do something about it.”

According to Groh, 16 stations with trash, recycling, and composting bins, staffed by volunteers from Keep Philadelphia Beautiful, the Sierra Club, and other groups, will be placed along the Parkway. And all building materials, including carpeting and wood, will be dismantled and donated for reuse.  Extra or leftover food will go to soup kitchens and shelters throughout the area, or it will end up at a compost facility in Fairmount Park. Food donations could exceed the 11,000 pounds given out during the Democratic National Convention in July, officials estimated.

Additional highlights include:

  • The league’s purchase of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) equal to the amount  of electricity used to power activities in the Draft Experience site along the Parkway.
  • Signs, decorations, lumber, and carpeting will be donated to organizations including Habitat for Humanity and Resource Exchange.  The materials will be remade into such things as whiteboards for classrooms.
  • Water bottle refilling stations along the Parkway.
  • The NFL and Verizon are putting up $10,000 for urban forestry as part of a matching grant. Eventually, 10 trees will be planted for each of the 253 players drafted in 2017.

The NFL Draft’s sustainability effort is poised to be a winning one. If the Jets picks prove to be as successful, I will be one happy man.

 

^ TreePeople is a two-year LA Galaxy partner that inspires the people of Los Angeles to take personal responsibility for the urban forest.

 


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