The Big, Green Sports Apple


Since 2007, the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area has seen a stadium/arena construction boom, with 6 new structures going up. In chronological order, they are the Prudential Center, Citi Field, Yankee Stadium, Red Bull Arena, MetLife Stadium and the Barclay’s Center. Given that all of this action took place just as green stadium construction was becoming a “thing,” we thought it would be interesting to see just how green the Big Apple stadium and arena lineup really is.

PRUDENTIAL CENTER (aka The Rock), Newark, NJ, 2007. New Jersey Devils (NHL) and Seton Hall University basketball (Big East).
Did you know New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the US? Yet the Devils, since the beginning of their existence in the 80s played in the Meadowlands, un-served by commuter rail–until after the club moved to downtown Newark in 2007.
Prudential Center is a short walk from Newark’s Penn Station transportation hub, and thus is easily accessible to fans from most of New Jersey and New York City via NJ Transit, Amtrak and PATH. Prior to the arena’s opening, the Devils designed a transportation plan to increase mass-transit ridership to games. It offered season-long rail passes and up-to-the-minute in-arena train schedules, and improved the pedestrian experience between the arena and transit stations. These measures, the Club found, nearly doubled mass transit ridership to The Rock vs. pre-opening estimates.
While not LEED-certified, there are green aspects to the building, with the most stunning being the transparent glass exterior that rings the building. Designers used state-of-the-art (at the time) high-performance, energy efficient glass, keeping the building cooler in summer and warmer in winter.  It also maximizes natural light–the lobbies are incredibly bright–minimizing the need for artificial illumination for day games.

CITI FIELD, Flushing, Queens, 2009. New York Mets (MLB).

Citi Field, which was built in the parking lot of the ballpark it replaced, Shea Stadium, did not receive LEED certification largely because LEED standards for open air facilities were just being developed when the new ballpark opened.  And while I don’t know if Citi Field would qualify for LEED status today, I do know this–they did a lot of things right back then, including the use of:

  • Recycled steel during construction (huge energy saver, both in terms of CO2 emissions avoided in the making of the steel, and in its transportation)
  • Recycled waste oil
  • Porous pavement, which prevents storm water run-off and allowed for the planting of trees.
  • Green roof in right field, which accessible by fans
  • Low flow toilets/waterless urinals
  • Green energy through Renewable Energy Credits (RECS)

Green Roof Citi Field

The Green Roof at Cit Field, shown in its early days of 2009. (Photo credit: Green Living Technologies)

The Mets’ greenness didn’t stop with the opening of the ballpark–they went all-in in 2012 with composting food waste and serving food with compostable plastics. And, in 2014, the club agreed, in partnership with NextEra Energy and the Center for Resource Solutions to purchase Green E-certified RECs to offset 100% of the electricity at least through June, 2016, putting the Mets ahead the #Go100Percent curve.
YANKEE STADIUM, Bronx, 2009. New York Yankees (MLB) and NYCFC (MLS).
The new Yankee Stadium was built on what was Macombs Dam Park, adjacent to the old stadium. In a 2013 GreenSportsBlog post comparing the greenness of Citi Field and Yankee Stadium, I gave the nod to the Mets. The main reason was no one from the Yanks would respond to our calls and there was no public information–at least none I could find–on the greening of the Big Ball Orchard in the South Bronx (i.e. use of recycled steel, green roof, etc.) So, I figured the Steinbrenners didn’t factor green into it.
Fast forward to late summer, 2015 and an interview with Doug Behar, VP of Yankee Stadium Operations. It turns the Yanks, while not going for LEED certification, embedded sustainability into the planning and building of the ballpark and have taken a leadership role in green stadium operations since Day One.
Why were we unable to find this out in 2013? The Steinbrenner Way, said Behar: “We’d get a plaque for [being a LEED] building but that wasn’t what our greening, our sustainability efforts were about. That attitude comes from ownership. George [Steinbrenner] didn’t look for credit in many of his good charitable works. And LEED just seemed showy.”
Showy or not, Yankee Stadium builders went by the LEED playbook. “In the construction process, we used recycled steel and concrete aggregate. In fact, we diverted 75% of construction waste–either it was recycled or reused,” said Behar, “and we went for the most energy efficient lights available at the time–they used 1/3 the energy of traditional lights.”
Regarding operations, the Yankees went green from the get-go:

  • Building energy management systems were top of the line in terms of efficiency
  • All appliances were Energy Star rated.
  • They recycled and composted from the 2009 opening at a time when the latter was rare.

On this last point, Yankees had a great green 2015 in terms of recycling and composting. Final results were not in when Behar and I spoke but the Stadium was trending towards a Zero-Waste designation, with diversion rates expected to end up north of 90%. Hopefully, the 2016 campaign will be as successful on the field as I’m sure it will be green off of it.
RED BULL ARENA, Harrison, NJ, 2010. New York Red Bulls (MLS).
If you want to see a soccer match in a fantastic, European-like environment, go to Red Bull Arena, with 25,000 seats close to the action and a spectacular roof that protects fans from the elements and keeps the noise in. If you want to go to the greenest stadium in the NY-NJ area, this ain’t the place.
There are positives. Red Bull Arena:

  • Like the Prudential Center, is more easily accessible by mass transit than MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands, the club’s original home–It is a few hundred yards from the Harrison PATH Station* and is about a 15 minute walk from Newark’s Penn Station, which means easy access for suburban fans via NJ Transit and Amtrak.
  • Is situated on a reclaimed Brownfield site that was cleaned up 3-4 years earlier than projected because of the arena’s existence.
  • Requires far fewer lights than a less technologically advanced arena:
    • The translucent roof helps keep light in during late afternoons/dusk which means the lights can be used less.
    • Engineers took into account the urban light effect of both Newark and New York City when determining the necessary amount of lightbulbs.

Red Bull Arena Translucent Roof

A portion of the translucent roof at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ. (Photo credit: Lewis Blaustein)

Yet the negatives are significant:

  • LED bulbs are not currently in use, with cost the stated reason. Red Bull Arena hosts only 25 event days per year, so the payback on an LED investment is quite long.
  • The Red Bulls, as of 2014, the last time we were able to talk with club executives, only bought 10% of the arena’s electricity from green sources
  • Red Bull Arena was not constructed with sustainability in mind–for example, recycled concrete was not used.

The lack of greenness is surprising given MLS’ young fan base (millennials are much more green minded than their elders). As of now, it is an opportunity lost.
METLIFE STADIUM, E. Rutherford, NJ., 2010. New York Giants and Jets (NFL).
MetLife Stadium is a green leader in the region and the entire NFL even though it is not LEED certified. First of all, the Jets and Giants share the stadium. If the Jets built their own stadium, as most of their fans (but not this one) wanted, voilà, there would be double the climate change-causing emissions and pollution.
Add to that, sustainability was central to the construction process and is to the stadium’s operations:

  • The biggest air pollution reducer was construction of a NJ Transit train spur to MetLife Stadium.  10,000 fans (capacity 82,000+) use the train that takes 25 minutes from Penn Station in NYC, which means about 2-3,000 fewer cars on the road.
  • During construction, use of diesel particulate filters led to an 80-90% particulate materials reduction.
  • MetLife Stadium, while twice as big as its predecessor and neighbor, Giants Stadium:
    • Uses nearly 25% less water, due to efficiency.
    • Consumes 30% less energy, due, in part, to 1,350 solar panels, installed on the roof by NRG.
    • Reduced solid waste production during its operation by approximately 25% through recycling and composting

MetLife Stadium’s greenness was on center stage when it played host to Super Bowl XLVIII in February, 2014: Carbon emissions were offset by local utility PSE&G.  And concessionaire Delaware North Companies Sportservice worked with MetLife Stadium to make it the first Certified Green Restaurant Stadium (CGR) from the Green Restaurant Association (GRA) in time for the big game. This is no mean feat since MetLife has 200 restaurants.
BARCLAY’S CENTER, Brooklyn, 2012. Brooklyn Nets (NBA) and New York Islanders (NHL).
STOP THE PRESSES! Barclay’s Center achieved LEED Silver certification in 2013.  This makes the Barclay’s Center the only one of the 6 new stadiums/arenas in the NYC/NJ to earn any type of LEED status.
Located at one of New York’s busiest transit hub, one that includes the Long Island Railroad and multiple subway lines, the Barclays Center’s was cited by the US Green Building Council (manages LEED) for its impact on reducing vehicular traffic on surrounding streets.

And the roof, which was advanced from a sustainability point of view to begin with, became a green one this summer, filled with grasses, flowers and plants. It dampens noise and acts as a sponge, capturing about 1 million gallons of stormwater. MaryAnne Gilmartin, President and CEO of Forest City Ratner Cos., which built the arena, said “We’re very excited about the green roof because it will add additional texture and color and send an extraordinary message about urban areas as innovative, sustainable and attractive.”

Greening Barclays

A Green Roof Grows in Brooklyn, atop the Barclays Center. (Photo credit: New York’s PIX 11/WPIX-TV)


Now if only the Nets would play innovative, sustainable and attractive basketball…

* PATH is a subway-like system that transits commuters between midtown and lower Manhattan and nearby Hudson and Essex Counties in New Jersey.
Please comment below!
Email us: lew@greensportsblog
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