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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Four Teams Getting Green-Sports Right

A powerhouse of American collegiate (aka university) sports from the country’s heartland. The team trying to bring the America’s Cup home to Britain for the first time. One of the most anonymous teams in the NBA. And a fifth division English football team. What could these four seemingly unrelated sports organizations have in common? THE Ohio State University Buckeyes, Land Rover BAR, the Sacramento Kings and Forest Green Rovers are four of the greenest teams on the planet. This story was originally posted on 100% Sport’s website.

 

OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY BUCKEYES

Ohio State is one of the gold standard programs in college football, winning its eighth national championship in 2015. The 65,000+ student, Columbus-based school also owns 29 other National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) championships, including a title in men’s basketball, and multiple banners in swimming (11) as well as women’s rowing (3). There’s no other way to say it: Ohio State is a college sports powerhouse.

And, while Ohio’s pro loyalties are largely split between Cleveland in the north and Cincinnati in the south, it is Ohio State, in the centrally located capital city of Columbus, that is the closest thing to a unifying force in sports in the state. With more than 106,000 fans filling Ohio Stadium (aka The Horseshoe) at every home football game and with millions following the Buckeyes on TV, radio and online, the impact of Ohio State football is massive.

Panorama at Ohio Stadium

The Horseshoe, home of Ohio State football and, since 2013, its Zero Waste home games. (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)

 

Given the huge fan base and audience, the potential impacts of Ohio State’s Zero Waste home football games–the school just completed its 4th straight Zero Waste football season–are also staggering. Zero Waste events are defined as diverting at least 90 percent of waste from the landfill via recycling, composting, or repurposing. The Buckeyes diverted an insanely great 96.35 percent of in-stadium waste in 2015, winning the Big Ten Conference diversion rate championship for the fourth consecutive year. Results for 2016 are not complete but it looks as though OSU football’s diversion rates will be similar to the prior year’s.

Ohio Stadium is thought to be the biggest Zero-Waste stadium in the world. And the Schottenstein Center, aka Value City Arena, the 18,000+ seat home of Buckeyes basketball and hockey, which opened in 2000, is getting into the Zero-Waste action, expecting to get there sometime in 2017.

 

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 10.35.23 AM

Schottenstein Center, home of Ohio State University Basketball (Columbus, OH), will become a Zero Waste facility (diverting at least 90% of waste from landfill) by 2017. (Photo Credit: The Lantern)

 

Indications are Ohio State’s greening efforts are breaking through with fans:

  • Out of 175 people surveyed in 2014, all but 3 thought that Ohio State Athletics has some level of responsibility (slight, some, and strong) to add environmental efforts into their athletics operations. Yes, it’s a small sample size, but directionally it’s telling.
  • The rest of the campus is taking the green lead from Ohio State football: Diversion rates across the entire university have almost doubled since the pre-Zero Waste football days, rising from 16.1% in FY 2004 t0 30.4% in FY 2015.
  • Food waste, with the help of OSU Zero Waste volunteers, is transported to Price Farms Organic, a composting facility in Delaware, Ohio. The waste is eventually turned into a mulch called Stadium Scarlet (the school’s colors are scarlet and gray), which Buckeyes fans, most of whom are landscapers and/or homeowners, purchase for $40 per cubic yard.
  • A 101 kW, 237 panel solar array was installed in 2014 on the Recreational and Physical Activities Center roof, adjacent to The Horseshoe in the Buckeyes’ iconic Block O configuration. It makes for a great aerial scene-setter shot–and a terrific talking point.

O Roof

Solar panel array, in the shape of Ohio State’s “Block O”, atop the roof of the Recreational and Physical Activities Center, in the shadow of The Horseshoe. (Photo credit: Office of Energy and Environment, The Ohio State University)

 

Fans of the University of Colorado-Boulder, with its absolutely sterling record of sports-sustainability leadership (Zero-Waste, on site solar, state-of-the-art water conservation and restoration programs), might say “Ohio State is great, but what about us?” And they have a point.

Highlighting OSU is not a knock on Colorado—far from it. Our feeling was that Ohio State deserves particular kudos because it is in the green conversation with a school like Colorado (in eco-haven Boulder) despite being in the center of a state that voted for Donald J. Trump. That is a BIG DEAL!

 

LAND ROVER BAR

Sir Ben Ainslie is the most successful sailor in Olympic history, winning medals at five consecutive Olympics (1996 to 2012), including gold at the last four; he also played a key part in Oracle Team USA’s stirring comeback to capture the 2013 America’s Cup.

While his past is certainly legendary, it is two aspects of the future that animate Ainslie’s life these days. Number one is his role as skipper of Land Rover Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR), Britain’s entry in the 35th America’s Cup, to be contested in Bermuda starting in May. The challenge isn’t that big—no, it’s only about bringing the Cup to the UK for the first time ever. And Britain has been trying to win the darn thing since 1851!

That there’s room for anything else on Ainslie’s plate these days is astounding, but his will to win is matched with the need to do so with purpose —and his purpose is to use his platform at the top of the sailing world to advocate for clean oceans, the climate change fight and to bring sustainability to the rest of the sailing world.

Ainslie’s path to Green-Sports leader was kickstarted after the 2013 America’s Cup when he met Wendy Schmidt of the 11th Hour Project, parent of 11th Hour Racing, a non-profit dedicated to promoting healthy oceans through world class sailing teams. According to Ainslie, “Wendy instilled in me the responsibility someone like myself in sport has to [build a team] with sustainability as a core principle, a core belief.”

 

Ben Wendy Harry Kenney-Herbert-Land Rover BAR

Sir Ben Ainslie with Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of 11th Hour Racing, Land Rover BAR’s Exclusive Sustainability Partner. (Photo credit: Harry Kenney-Herbert/Land Rover BAR)

 

11th Hour Racing soon became Land Rover BAR’s exclusive sustainability partner and, from that point on, the team’s environmental efforts have been full speed ahead. A partial list of Land Rover BAR’s sustainability initiatives includes:

  • Building its home base in Portsmouth to BREEAM Excellent (the British equivalent of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED) standards. Per Ainslie, “Probably the neatest thing about the base is the wrap — it makes it look pretty cool and it also helps the building retain heat in the winter and keep cooler in summer. And the sustainability of the base helps show our supporters, our partners, our competitors and also the media — who’ve been quite impressed — that we’re in this for the long haul.”

LR BAR Wrap

An aerial view of Land Rover BAR’s home base in Portsmouth, England, with the outer wrap covering the lower left portion of the building. (Photo credit: Shaun Roster)

 

  • Using 100% renewable electricity at the base

 

Solar Panels HKH01380

Solar panels atop the roof at Land Rover BAR’s Portsmouth headquarters, help the building achieve BREEAM Excellent status. (Photo credit: Harry Kenney-Herbert/Land Rover BAR)

 

  • Employing Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to make its operations as environmentally friendly and smart as possible. It does so by determining how best to use, reuse and dispose of materials from design to end-of-life.
  • Meatless Mondays for the team and staff
  • Drafted a sustainability charter for the other America’s Cup contestants to adopt

Moving half the team to Bermuda means Land Rover BAR has brought its sustainability commitment to the island in the Atlantic:

  • The team built its base in Bermuda employing sustainable construction features.  
  • 11th Hour Racing is funding an educational center open to the public, in close proximity to the America’s Cup Race Village where event organizers expect an average of 10,000 visitors/day during the competition. The 11th Hour Racing Exploration Zone features interactive exhibits on topics such as innovation and technology, ocean health, invasive species, the New Plastics Economy and renewable energy, as well as a STEM classroom. 
  • Along with Bermuda’s leading environmental organizations, the team and 11th Hour Racing are developing a legacy project around the lionfish, an invasive species creating havoc in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean. The goal is to raise awareness, promote lionfish as a sustainable and delectable choice of seafood and support an innovative solution to mitigate the invasion. 

 

SACRAMENTO KINGS

It’s been a long decade+ for Sacramento Kings fans. On the court, the club hasn’t made the playoffs since 2004. And the team was under constant threat of relocation from 2006-2013.

That threat ended with the 2013 sale of the Kings to local businessman Vivek Ranadivé. And, despite another poor start this season, Sacramento fans and the community at large can be proud of the leadership the team is displaying in the NBA in the climate change fight through the construction and October 2016 opening of Golden 1 Credit Union Center, the first LEED Platinum arena in the world. Platinum is the highest level of certification awarded by the US Green Building Council, representing the top three percent of buildings certified.

At the top of the Kings’ green list is the club’s commitment to generate 100% of the building’s electricity from solar power.

And get this–going 100% solar was in response to the fans! In a powerful March, 2016 Huffington Post Op-Ed, Randivé recalled that, “survey[s] of over 20,000 Sacramentans and countless focus groups, one of the top answers to the question of ‘What do you want Golden 1 Center to be?’ was always the same: To become a model of sustainability. Our fans wanted a state-of-the-art arena that would deliver an unparalleled experience for both fans and the environment.” 

Randive & Company are giving the fans what they asked for. Golden 1 Center will be the first indoor arena in the world to derive 100% of its electricity from solar energy sourced within 50 miles of the arena–the Kings will buy 85% of its electric load from Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s (SMUD) new 10.9-megawatt solar farm; the other 15% will come from solar panels atop the building’s rooftop.

Want more green firsts? Golden 1 Center is the first arena in the world to be both indoor and outdoor. How can that be possible? By featuring five massive hangar doors above the grand entrance that open and allow the arena to use a natural cooling phenomenon in Sacramento – The Delta Breeze – to control the building’s climate efficiently, that’s how! 

golden-1-amplify

The hangar doors to Golden 1 Center open, letting fans—and the cooling Delta Breeze—into the arena (Photo credit: Amplify)

 

But, wait…there’s more: The Kings’ architectural choices are estimated to keep nearly 2,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually out of the atmosphere – equivalent to emissions from approximately 4 million vehicle miles.

Perhaps even more extraordinary than Golden 1 Center’s green features is Ranadivé’s exemplary forward-looking vision: “Our hope in creating Golden 1 Center was to help drive meaningful change in our community – which includes working to curb climate change and promote renewable energy. Businesses, including large sports franchises, have a core responsibility to help facilitate the world’s clean energy transition so that we can better protect the health and environment of future generations. The 1.2 million people who will pass through our doors each year will see first hand how adopting the best sustainability practices can improve the fan experience.”

 

FOREST GREEN ROVERS

From a distance Forest Green Rovers F.C. (FGR), with roots dating back to 1889, is like most every other club at the Conference/5th tier level. They play in a quaint, 5,000-ish seat stadium (The New Lawn). They have a small group of hyper-local followers. And they’re pushing for promotion to the league above them (as of this writing, a little more than halfway through the season, FGR stands in 2nd place, good for a spot in the promotion playoffs if the season ended today, and four points back of Lincoln City for first and guaranteed promotion.)

But, when you look closer, you’ll see a club that, on the pitch and especially off, should be a model for all professional sports teams on either side of the pond.

It starts with ownership. Dale Vince, OBE, became the club’s major shareholder and Chairman in 2010. He also is the Founder/Owner of Ecotricity, based in nearby Stroud, which is taking on the challenge of reducing up to 80 percent of Great Britain’s carbon footprint. Since 1995, Ecotricity has become a green “triple threat”, dealing with electricity (through wind and solar project development), AND transportation (EV battery chargers at highway rest stops) AND food (in the concept stage on wind powered tractors and other clean farm energy projects). The company is privately held, pays no dividends and so profits are plowed back into the building of more clean energy. Thus, Ecotricity’s motto: Turn (electric) Bills Into (wind) Mills. Al Gore is a fan. It is the largest private sector employer in the area. Ecotrcitiy has serious green cred.

That green cred extends to FGR, which is pioneering the Greening of Football. Along with putting a quality squad on the pitch, the essence of FGR is green…DEEP green:

  • The most revolutionary move was to go Meat Free at the club training table and then at the concessions stands at The New Lawn. You read that right: No meat at the stadium. Veggie burgers only. That must’ve been a DISASTER. Well, in an interview with The Independent in 2014, Vince conceded that, at first, there was “a fan revolt.” But then things turned. Now Vince says “I didn’t give in. [And] now no fan says the veggie burger is worse than a meat burger. They even come up to me and thank me, and say I’ve changed their lives.”
  • While energy efficient LEDs are increasingly the rage at sporting venues vs. the traditional, energy-sucking Metal Halide lights, Vince says LEDs are not energy efficient enough. So they’re looking into lower energy lighting. Does anyone doubt they’ll figure this one out?
  • There are solar panels on the roof and also ground-mounted solar powered car ports at The New Lawn. The latter are visible to all fans entering and leaving the stadium, further cementing the greenness of the club among the fan base.

New Lawn

The New Lawn, home of Forest Green Rovers F.C., in Nailsworth, England. Concession stands are meatless, solar panels line the roof and the parking lot. (Photo Credit: openbuildings.com)

And the organic pitch is mowed by a solar-powered “Mow-Bot.” I kid you not.

 

To Vince, sustainability is integral to the club’s DNA and its long term viability: “We’re building a football club that’s both environmentally and financially sustainable. We got involved for two reasons – social and environmental. The club is a big part of the local community, with a rich tradition, and it needed rescuing. For us, it was an investment in the local community. Secondly, the club offered an opportunity to take our sustainable message to a new audience – a large and passionate new audience largely unaccustomed to dealing with sustainability issues.”

Finally, click here to see a terrific 8-minute video from Collectively, a non-profit that uncovers, shares and scales up “exciting ideas for a future we want to live.” You get an unvarnished, up close view of what fans–both FGR and away supporters–think and feel about this fascinating experiment at the intersection of Green + Sports. Let us know what you think. Meanwhile, I’m ready for a veggie burger!

 

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