Twin Cities Rule Green-Sports, Part III: Twins, Wild and Minnesota United Step Up

“Which metro area is the Green-Sportsy-est in the US?”

To GreenSportsBlog, Minneapolis/St. Paul is the clear winner.

The Twin Cities boast five, count ’em five pro sports venues plus one independent league baseball stadium that all have green stories to tell. Plus a Green-Sports startup. Plus a chef who has made the Target Center a place for foodies as well as basketball fans to call home.

That’s why we need a four-part series to do show how the Twin Cities Rule US Green-Sports!

In Part I, we looked at US Bank Stadium (Minnesota Vikings and the 2020 Green Sports Alliance Summit), the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium and CHS Field (Independent baseball’s St. Paul Saints) from a green perspective.

Part II saw our our focus shift to food. David Fhima, has brought his tasty, clean, healthy culinary excellence to Target Center as head chef and “nutritional curator” for the NBA’s Timberwolves and WNBA’s Lynx. 

In today’s Part III, we head back out to the Twin Cities’ venues.

Starting in Minneapolis, we check out the greenness of Target Field, home of the American League Central Division-leading Minnesota Twins. Then we light rail over to St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center to see how the Minnesota Wild have shown the green way for years. Staying in the state’s capital city, we end our tour with the Twin Cities’ newest venue, Allianz Stadium, home of MLS’ Minnesota United.

 

GREEN-SPORTS PART OF TWINS, TARGET FIELD’S DNA

Gary Glawe is a facilities management lifer — he studied it at the University of Wisconsin-Stout and then worked to help make Twin Cities-area tech and healthcare firms (Boston Scientific and Medtronic, respectively) operate as efficiently as possible. Eleven years ago, Glawe made it to the major leagues — literally — of facilities when he joined the Twins to manage facility operations, just as they were transitioning from the Metrodome to Target Field.

“The design phase was complete when I joined the Twins so I spent most of my time at the beginning of my tenure at the Target Field construction site,” Glawe recalled. “I was happy that sustainability was embedded in the design and that we were going for LEED certification for new construction. This was 2009-2010, early days for LEED certified stadiums. In fact, we became the second¹ major league ballpark to earn any kind of LEED certification. And, only one year after Target Field opened in 2010, we earned LEED Silver for operations and maintenance (O&M) status.”

 

Gary Glawe Twins

Gary Glawe (Photo credit: Minnesota Twins)

 

LEED certification is certainly a good thing, but to Glawe, it’s the desire of Twins’ management to measure and constantly improve the club’s performance on a number of sustainability metrics — from waste to water use to energy use and more — that is most important.

“When it came time to re-certify for O&M in 2016, we asked ourselves if it was worth it,” Glawe said. “We found that the US Green Building Council, which administers LEED, wasn’t asking for accountability from us. So why should we pay thousands of dollars for what really is window dressing? We weren’t going to get re-certified until a consultant, Sustainability Investment Group, came in and told us about the Arc platform for LEED certified buildings.”

Arc helps venues turn raw data into usable information.

More Glawe: “You input data monthly on energy, waste, water, transportation and ‘human experience’ into Arc. It gives you a real-time scorecard of how you’re performing versus benchmarks. Arc provided the accountability I was looking for!”

One key Arc scorecard item for the Target Field team is lighting. The Twins shifted to LEDs for its field lights in 2017 as part of a multi-year upgrade. While the LEDs delivered top quality light as expected, it was the energy savings scorecard that most interested Glawe:

  • BEFORE (metal halides): 746 bulbs at 2,000 watts each.
  • AFTER (LEDs): 512 bulbs at 1,000 watts each.

Arc also puts a high priority on waste diversion rates.

When Target Field opened, rates hovered in the 50 percent range; now they’re up into the 70s. The Twins’ on-field performance has an impact on those rates.

“When the team’s record went south, attendance went down, and our diversion rates went down because divert-ible waste decreased,” noted Glawe. “Now that the team is doing much better, so are our diversion rates. One thing that helps is our move to compostable products, thanks to our partnership with Eco-Products.”

 

Target Field

Target Field (Photo credit: Ballpark Digest)

 

The lighting upgrades, improved waste diversion rates and more helped Target Field become the first sports facility to earn LEED Arc certification, and at the Gold level. But Glawe wants more: “When it comes time to re-certify in 2022, we’ll definitely be looking to achieve Platinum.”

The Twins are engaging their fans to up their green games with pregame messaging on the video board and a Go Twins/Go Green section on the website. The club hasn’t yet made the direct connection to fans between greener behaviors and the climate change fight.

 

XCEL ENERGY CENTER, MINNESOTA WILD BRING GREEN-SPORTS TO ST. PAUL 

The Minnesota Wild have a “Go Big” attitude and are “unafraid to fail” when it comes to the sustainability initiatives they’ve undertaken at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center over the past ten years or so.

Don’t believe me?

In 2009 Jim Ibister, the Wild’s VP of Facility Administration tasked his team with a 50-50-2 challenge. All that meant was that the staff had to get recycling rates up to 50 percent and reduce waste by 50 in just two years.

Impossible, right?

Wrong.

The Xcel Energy Center staff blew by that number in 18 months.

 

Jim Ibister Dani Werner

Jim Ibister (Photo credit: Dani Werner)

 

That’s quite an achievement when you consider that per Ibister, Xcel Energy Center “did not have sustainability embedded in its building design or its operations when it opened in 2000.”

It took a few years, but Ibister — who joined the Xcel Energy Center that same year — and his team took matters into their own hands when it came to greening.

“A few years in, and all we had were some recycling bins,” Ibister recalled. “This was not nearly enough. So we put together a sustainability deck in 2004 that featured low hanging fruit like waste reduction, and presented it to management. They said ‘not interested.’ But with the help of Progressive Associates, a husband and wife sustainability consulting firm, I went ahead and implemented most of it anyway — hey, the costs were low!”

Not only was tackling waste inexpensive, Ramsey County and the State of Minnesota combined had levied a hefty 70 percent tax on trash. There was no tax on compost so going that route saved a lot of money. Once management realized that going green was good business, they bought in.

Ibister and his team follow three mantras when considering sustainability initiatives at Xcel Energy Center:

  1. Don’t chase certifications. “Do the best we can,” Ibister said. “If that gets us LEED certification, great. If not, that’s OK too.”
  2. Be transparent.
  3. Keep it simple.

Achieving simplicity has not been easy. “Fans have ‘separation anxiety’ with trash, recycling and composting bins,” admitted Ibister. “It’s easier for us in the suites and club level, where we only offer composting and recycling. It’s harder to get fans to place their refuse in the correct bin in the main seating bowl because there is trash as well as recycling and composting and it can get confusing at times. We work hard to educate them but we haven’t found the perfect system. But we will continue to set high goals and will keep trying to achieve them.”

Think 50-50-2 was a tall order? The Xcel Energy Center team challenged itself again in 2009 with an audacious 80-20 in 3 challenge: Reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent, increase efficiency to 20 percent better on average than similar buildings, all in 3 years.

They didn’t make it in time but Ibister doesn’t see that as a failure.

“We set goals that were hard to achieve so we knew there’s was a chance we wouldn’t get there,” Ibister reflected. “But we took away the fear of failing by failing. And we made great strides in the attempt, making progress on emissions reductions through purchases of offsets from Sterling Planet, a solar thermal installation, energy efficiency, composting and recycling, and more. We didn’t make the 80 percent reduction number by 2012 but now we are at 88.7 percent below 2007-2008 levels.”

On efficiency, Xcel Energy Center has a secret weapon on its HVAC team.

“We’ve brought in many companies to try to help us automate and save money,” said Ibister said. “Then they see the work our lead engineer has done and they say ‘oh, we can’t do better’ and leave. I’d name him but he prefers anonymity. The only way we will replace him someday is with a machine.”

Ibister says the one sustainability area he’d like to improve the most is on communications with the fans. But, like 80-20 in 3, it ain’t easy. And that means Ibister and team will go for it.

“We don’t communicate green with fans as much as we should,” lamented Ibister. “Some fans don’t want to hear about green — ‘Just get us a new goalie! Climate change is fake.’ But that doesn’t stop us. When we do talk about it we do so in a celebratory fashion (‘We just became LEED certified!”). And we’re being more strategic about it. The last few seasons we used University of Minnesota students to help communicate the importance of green. Last fall they did fan surveys which were well received.”

 

Xcel Center Solar Press Conf

Xcel Energy Center management held a press conference recently to announce a new solar installation on the outside of the arena’s parking deck (Photo credit: Minnesota Wild)

 

What’s next on the Xcel Energy Center green agenda?

While the light rail’s green line stops about three blocks away, there is a push for a modern streetcar to be built that would bring fans to the arena’s front door. The best guess is that this project is five to eight years down the road.

What’s the big deal about three blocks?

“Three blocks is a long way when it’s minus 30° Fahrenheit outside,” noted Ibister.

 

MINNESOTA UNITED BUILDS PUBLIC PARK FOR COMMUNITY OUTSIDE BRAND NEW ALLIANZ FIELD

Bill McGuire, owner of Minnesota United, had a clear plan back in 2015 for what would become Allianz Field, his team’s brand new stadium in St. Paul.

“Along with sports architect Populous and Mortenson Construction, McGuire pushed a vision for the stadium that evoked and fit the Midway neighborhood,” shared Samantha (Sam) Chapman, Project Manager for Minnesota United. “The area’s building stock is not very vertical and so Allianz Field is not overwhelming height-wise. Midway has a diverse population and we want to be a connector for the community.”

 

Samantha Chapman

Samantha Chapman (Photo credit: Minnesota United)

 

Helping to connect the community is the Great Lawn, a new green space funded by ownership on a 28,000 square foot plot of land north of the stadium. On game days, it’s an area for pre-game parties. But with only perhaps major 30 event days per year, the Great Lawn’s main function is as a new public park. “Anyone in the community can enjoy it,” Chapman said. “This was an essential aspect of the stadium project.”

 

Allianz Field Great Lawn

The Great Lawn (Photo credit: Minnesota United)

 

MLS has the youngest fan base of the five pro sports in North America. That’s why mass transit and bicycle access is arguably more important for Minnesota United than for their baseball, basketball, football and hockey counterparts.

Like the five other pro venues in the Twin Cities, Allianz Field is on the Green Line. While there are no data available yet on the percentage of Minnesota United supporters who take light rail — the stadium is only three months old — there’s a good chance the numbers will be impressive when they do come in.

“We expect the mass transit numbers should be strong since parking is limited” related Chapman. “Last year when we played at TCF Bank Stadium, the home of University of Minnesota football, 33 percent of fans took mass transit, a higher percentage than at UM games. Many fans commute to our games by bicycle, too. We can house 400 bikes on our permanent bike racks surrounding the stadium, and we’ve had to bring in more on game days for our fans.”

The club has not mounted a green fan engagement effort yet but, per Chapman, that is changing now.

“Our Green Team launched July 3rd at Allianz Field; they will be helping and educating our fans while disposing items during our game days,” Chapman asserted. “Along with Biz Recycling, our recycling and composting partner, the Green Team will make sure fans use the proper container — organics, recycling and trash. They’ll also be looking for fans who do this on their own, and recognizing them with a prize. We’ll be running messaging and images throughout our in-house production on game days as well on our social media outlets about the importance of waste diversion and minimizing items being sent to the landfill.”

 

¹ Nationals Park in Washington, DC became the first LEED certified stadium in major league baseball in 2009

 


 

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Twin Cities Rule US Green-Sports: Vikings, U of Minnesota, St. Paul Saints LEED the Way

“Which metro area is the Green-Sportsy-est in the US?”

While coastal areas like San Francisco-Oakland-Santa Clara and Seattle might come to mind first, it says here that Minneapolis and St. Paul, smack dab in the heartland of the country, wins the title.

In fact, the Twin Cities’ Green-Sportsy-ness runs so deep that we can’t cover it all in one post.

We started things off last week with our look at the sustainability efforts surrounding the recent NCAA Men’s Final Four at US Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings.

Today, in the first of our four-part Twin Cities Rule US Green-Sports series, we examine the greenness of three of the area’s many sports venues. 

The tour starts at US Bank Stadium. Then we get on the light rail’s Green Line and head east across the Mississippi River to the University of Minnesota to check out TCF Bank Stadium, home base for Gophers football. Finally, we hop back on the eastbound Green Line ride, ending up in St. Paul and CHS Field, home of the Saints, an innovative independent baseball club.

 

PEAKS AND VALLEYS GETTING TO ZERO WASTE AT US BANK STADIUM

Bradley Vogel, sustainability coordinator at US Bank Stadium, has seen a lot since he arrived in November 2016 after wrapping up his Masters Degree in Sustainability Management at the University of Minnesota.

His rookie year coincided with the Minnesota Vikings’ first season at the viking ship-shaped building. Then he and his operations team had a mega-event doubleheader for which to prepare: Super Bowl LII in February 2018 and April’s NCAA Men’s Final Four.

 

Bradley Vogel headshot

Bradley Vogel (Photo credit: MSFA)

 

Pressure came with the Super Bowl-Final Four back-to-back for Vogel and his team. 

Management wanted US Bank Stadium to achieve LEED Gold for Building Design and Construction — it ultimately earned that certification last year — but the waste diversion rate was too low at the outset.

“Our diversion rate was only 15 percent in Year One, July 2016 to June, 2017,” Vogel recalled. “But our director of operations Curtis Schmillen had a huge plan to turn that around. So in Year Two, we added compost in our back-of-house (kitchens) operations and throughout the rest of the stadium. It helped that Hennepin County and the city of Minneapolis are committed to composting.” 

ESPN’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) team played a big role with composting as well. “They are composting experts,” reported Vogel. “ESPN’s X Games became an annual event at US Bank Stadium starting in July 2017, and so they helped us get past some of the pitfalls that come with trying to compost at a big event.”

With the help of funding for composting from Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA), which owns the building, and the state, US Bank Stadium upped its diversion rate to 46 percent in 2017.

But, with Super Bowl LII upcoming in February 2018, MSFA management was not satisfied. 

“Management and NFL Environmental asked ‘what can do to make US Bank as green as possible by Super Bowl LII?,” Vogel said. “The answer: Get us to zero waste — at least 90 percent diversion. And despite an up-and-down 2017, we knew we had the ability to get to 90 percent diversion, especially since, per Minneapolis law and MSFA policy, everything had to be compostable or recyclable, including things like ‘to go tubs’ and cutlery.”

When it came time for the Super Bowl, concessionaire Aramark upped its game on compostables. Pepsi had “bin guards” to make sure fans placed their waste in the correct bins. When all was said and done, the post-game sort revealed that the US Bank Stadium team, like the Philadelphia Eagles, were winners, as the diversion rate came in at 91 percent.

 

Jack Groh NFL Environmental Bradley Vogel

Jack Groh of NFL Environmental gives instructions to Pepsi bin guards prior to Super Bowl LII (Photo credit: Bradley Vogel)

 

US Bank Sort board Bradley Vogel

Waste Sort Board educates US Bank Stadium staff on the proper ways waste should be disposed (Photo credit: Bradley Vogel)

 

But achieving zero waste for a Super Bowl, with sponsors and the NFL pitching in is one thing. Doing it for a full, 10-game Minnesota Vikings campaign, without that outside assistance, is quite another. The US Bank Stadium sustainability team notched a solid 72 percent rate for the 2018 season but they fell short of Super Bowl LII’s 91 percent diversion level.

Vogel believes the lessons learned at the Super Bowl and the Men’s Final Four (a lower-than-expected 64 percent diversion rate, due in part to back-of-house issues that were specific to that event), will help his team get US Bank Stadium and the Vikings over that season-long zero waste hump this fall.

“We’ve maximized our compost rate back-of-house,” Vogel noted. “Now we’re working on getting our fan-facing, front-of-house composting to similar levels. That’s how we’ll get to zero-waste on a season-long basis. In the meantime, our overall sustainable approach earned US Bank Stadium LEED Platinum for Operations and Maintenance (O&M) status, making us the first stadium to attain that level. Official certification will come in June or July.”

 

UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: LOOKING TO SWITCH TO RECYCLABLE PROMOTIONAL ITEMS AT GOPHERS FOOTBALL GAMES TO INCREASE DIVERSION RATE

Getting to zero waste for a full season is also goal for University of Minnesota football. The Gophers play their games at TCF Bank Stadium, their 50,000 seat, LEED silver home adjacent to the light rail’s green line.

“We’ve averaged 82 percent diversion over the past four or five years at TCF Bank Stadium, and that includes 2014-15 when the Vikings played here and 2017-18 when we hosted Minnesota United¹,” said Jeff Seifriz, assistant athletics director- facility operations. “Getting to 90 percent has proven to be tricky but we made strides last season by working with the university’s sustainability office and third party vendors like Aramark and the University of Minnesota Waste Recovery Services to do detailed audits of our post-game sorts.”

 

Jeff Seifriz

Jeff Seifriz (Photo credit: University of Minnesota)

 

One thing that has kept the Gophers’ sustainability team from getting to zero waste has been promotional items: “The problem is that vessels like souvenir cups and serving boats have complex graphics that make them difficult to be accepted by recyclers. We’re looking at going to a simpler ‘single print’ approach that hopefully will get these items into the recycling stream and get us to 90 percent diversion.” It says here that venues and teams can reduce the environmental cost of promotional items by having fewer promotional days, at least those that involve giving out stuff.

Seifriz wishes that zero waste had been a thing when TCF Bank Stadium was in the planning stages back in 2006 (it opened in 2009): “Had zero waste been our radar back then, we would’ve made space for composting on site and for compactors.”

 

TCF Bank Stadium Exterior

TCF Bank Stadium, home of University of Minnesota Gophers football (Photo credit: University of Minnesota)

 

Since then, Seifriz and his team have gone to school on some of the best in Collegiate Green-Sports, studying the successes of the University of Colorado-Boulder, University of Washington and Big Ten rival Ohio State. The 20+ year University of Minnesota facilities veteran also shares best practices with his Green-Sports-minded counterparts from the St. Paul Saints, as well as the Minnesota Twins, Vikings, and Wild at the occasional brainstorm session (aka Happy Hours): “It’s a terrific group of committed practitioners who want to make a difference on the environment.”

 

ST. PAUL SAINTS: INCUBATING GREEN-SPORTS INNOVATION AT CHS FIELD

Independent League Baseball leagues and teams — they are not affiliated with and/or owned by major league league franchises as opposed to minor league clubs — are proving to be the sport’s petri dishes.

This season, the independent Atlantic League is experimenting with some outside-the-box rule changes, like moving the pitcher’s mound two feet farther away from home plate with the goal of reducing strikeouts and increasing the percentage of pitches that are hit in play.

The St. Paul Saints, who play in the North Division of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball, have been a proving ground for green innovation since planning began about eight years ago for what would become CHS Field.

Tom Whaley, aside from a four year hiatus, has been with the Saints since 1993. He is now an owner of the club and serves executive vice-president.

Whaley said that the Twin Cities’ sustainable heritage was one of the main reasons that green figured so prominently in the new ballpark.

“Green became a top priority for us when we started planning for the new ballpark in the early 2010s for four key reasons,” recalled Whaley. “#1. A clean, healthy, environment is very important to most people in our area, #2. Industry was heading in a green direction, #3. The City of St. Paul has a cabinet-level sustainability position, and #4. We are in an eternal quest to connect with young fans and green is something to which they respond.”

 

TomWhaleyHeadshot

Tom Whaley (Photo credit: St. Paul Saints)

 

Sustainable elements at the 7,200-seat CHS Field that were state-of-the-green-ballpark-art when it opened in 2015 — especially in the world of independent baseball — included:

  • On-site 100 kWh solar array that supplies 17 percent of the ballpark’s electricity, thanks to a grant from Xcel Energy
  • A graywater re-use system, with water supplied from the roof of a large adjacent transit facility, used to water the field and flush toilets
  • A vigorous waste diversion effort, funded in part by a grant from the state of Minnesota.

As the ballpark opened, the team wrapped a green sponsorship around the initiative called “The Greenest Ballpark in America”, with Ecolab, a global sustainable cleaning solutions company based in St. Paul, coming on as title sponsor. The sponsorship is critical to helping the Saints communicate the ballpark’s environmentally friendly features and benefits to its fans.

“Our goal is to bring green closer to home for our fans, to get them to think ‘CHS Field has solar; I should look into solar at my house’,” added Whaley. “We have two touch screen kiosks on the concourse to educate fans, a mobile platform (sustainability.chsfield.com), do in-game public address and video board announcements, plus on-field contests, all to engage our fans around the ideas and technologies. In 2018, we began an internship program dedicated to sustainability, and we deploy a volunteer Green Team of about 15-20 fans that spread our green message at about one third of our home games.”

 

StPaulSaints solar

100 kWh solar array located in beyond the left field wall supplies approximately 17 percent of the electricity needs at CHS Field (Photo credit: St. Paul Saints)

 

StPaulSaints Ecolab Kiosk

Ecolab partners with the Saints on kiosks that take real-time data from CHS Field’s Building Automation System to show fans the amount of power generated and saved (Photo credit: St. Paul Saints)

 

The Saints’ sustainability efforts earned CHS Field GreenSportsBlog’s Greenest New Ballpark award for 2015.

How have the fans reacted to the Saints’ greening? “It’s been very well received,” offered Whaley. “One thing we haven’t done yet is survey the fans about it. We should and we will.”

 

Next in Twin Cities Rule US Green-Sports, Chef David Fhima brings clean, sustainable, tasty food to the Target Center, home of the NBA’s Timberwolves and the WNBA’s Lynx.

 

¹ The Vikings played at TCF Bank Stadium while US Bank Stadium was under construction. And Minnesota United played its initial MLS season at TCF Bank while Allianz Field was being built.

 


 

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