UCLA has won 113 NCAA team sports championships, more than any other Division I school. But sports at the university involves much more than big time football and basketball. Many of the 65,000+ students and staff use the 16 recreational/athletics facilities, often alongside varsity athletes. Overseeing the well-being of the worker-outers as well as the facilities themselves is Mick DeLuca, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Campus Life. GreenSportsBlog spoke to DeLuca as he is also leading UCLA’s efforts to green its gyms and arenas.
GreenSportsBlog: Mick, managing and greening the UCLA athletics’ facilities must be a massive undertaking. How did you get into this work?
Mick DeLuca: Well Lew, I’ve been working in the world of Student Life, Campus Life, Recreation and Sports for over 35 years, at the University of Denver, University of Wyoming and, for the bulk of my career, here at UCLA. And it is massive in that we have about 44,500 students plus 21,000 employees on a 408-acre campus, making it the most densely populated campus in the U.S. As far as Athletics and Recreation are concerned, our 23 facilities are available to all, from the All American basketball player to the recreational runner.
Mick DeLuca (Photo credit: UCLA)
GSB: That’s in contrast to many big time Division I schools which manage separate facilities for the varsity athletes. I like the UCLA model better. And what a vibrant place to be; one of the iconic collegiate sports programs in the country.
MD: Oh no doubt about it. The UCLA brand is known worldwide. In fact, speaking of worldwide, we were very proud to be the Athlete Village and host 7 competitive sports during the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles, and our UCLA’s housing complex as well as our sports and recreation facilities are significant parts of the Los Angeles bid to host the 2024 Olympics, creating a new model for an athletic centric, sustainable Village and Games experience. Talk about green—one of LA24’s biggest selling points is its greenness in that most of the facilities are already built. Isn’t the most sustainable Olympics the one you don’t have to build? As far as UCLA’s recreation and athletics are concerned, I’d like to believe green was always been in our DNA, but, to be truthful, our real interest in it started to come about through the building and construction end, when LEED standards came into vogue, starting in about the late 90s-early 2000s. Then, quite naturally it seemed to me, we got involved with the consuming end, with resource management. By that I mean water, gas and electricity usage all became a big concern in the mid-2000s, not only from an environmental point of view, but also from a financial one.
GSB: That seems like a logical way to get into it. What about climate change?
MD: Well, we’re a university. And so as climate change came into prominence, again in the 2000s, interest in it and trying to do something about it touched just about every corner of UCLA, including recreation and athletics. As part of the University of California, we have pledged to become carbon neutral by 2025.
GSB: Which is very high profile…
MD: No doubt about it. And just as our sports teams and athletics department are held to very high standards, so too is recreation. Our “greenness” is one of the things we want to be identified with.
GSB: That’s great to hear. So let’s get specific. Talk about one of the highest profile greening projects on campus, the renovation of Pauley Pavilion, the home of the 11-time national champion UCLA men’s basketball team…
MD: …and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s volleyball^, women’s gymnastics*, intramurals, dance classes and open gym. Pauley is really one of the best examples of sustainable recreation/athletics space in the country in that so many people use it.
Renovated Pauley Pavilion, home of UCLA basketball, volleyball, and gymnastics. (Photo credit: Southern California Public Radio)
GSB: So any student or faculty member can go play pick up ball at Pauley?
GSB: That is SO COOL! Students can shoot hoops where Lew Alcindor# and Bill Walton and the rest played…
MD:…And they also have the John Wooden Recreation Center, which gets 1.47 million uses and 47,000 unique users per year. So when we look at green, we look at construction, consumption and also a healthy environment. We call it “Active Sustainability”, inclusive to all.
Exterior of the John Wooden Center. (Photo credit: UCLA)
GSB: That’s a very healthy approach…
MD: Anyway, back to Pauley. When we shut it down for a year in 2012 for renovations—we played at the old LA Sports Arena and and Honda Center in Anaheim in the interim—we went for LEED certification for existing buildings and, by the time we reopened in November 2013, we had attained LEED Gold status.
GSB: That’s great! How have the students reacted to the greening of UCLA athletics? Do they care?
MD: For sure; for the most part, they’re very into sustainability and the concept of sustainable communities. We’ve worked with students from our Education in Sustainable Living Program and had an Action Research Team Project to work on our Zero Waste initiatives, and Zero Waste Pauley Pavilion both for sporting events, and other large scale events. We also hired an Environmental Science alum, Katie Zeller, to embed as a Sustainability Coordinator shared by our Sports Venues and Recreation.
GSB: What does Katie do?
MD: What doesn’t she do?! She handles all sustainability reporting at all 23 facilities (emissions, waste, water usage and other climate change metrics), conducts research, ensures our events are up to ISO 2012-1 standards for sustainable events, liaises with other student sustainability action teams, and handles all sustainability program activations. She also collaborates with many campus departments and on campus initiatives, as well as works directly with student groups and student event organizers.
GSB: Could you give us an example of what a sustainability program activation looks like?
MD: One great example is our Ecochella, held at our Sunset Canyon Recreation Center. It is a bicycle-powered concert event in which local and student bands play for four hours with a sound system powered by the energy of students’ pedal power for a crowd of 1,000.
UCLA students use pedal power to provide juice for the Ecochella concert. (Photo credit: Imgum)
GSB: What a great way educate students about unconventional uses of renewable energy while showcasing the link between sustainability and health. Bravo! What about on-site renewables on or near UCLA athletics and/or recreational facilities?
MD: UCLA is on the cutting edge of research on solar power and we’re working on installing solar at a number of campus facilities including those that are central to student activities such as the John Wooden Center. This helps our researchers and builds awareness of solar among our fans and students.
GSB: You guys are leading on the field and, as it relates to sustainability, off the court. And you’re in great company being in the PAC-12, the first collegiate sports conference to become a member of the Green Sports Alliance. You’re in amongst the Green-Sports heavyweights in the PAC-12, with University of Colorado, Boulder and Dave Newport, as well as the great work being done at Arizona State. How do you look at the Green-Sports competition in the PAC-12?
MD: We have a healthy competition with the other PAC-12 schools for Green-Sports. We know friendly competition both moves people to action and raises awareness. And, of course, we also collaborate. It’s a “lift all boats” kind of thing because we all have the same goals: To raise awareness of the need to be environmentally friendly…Doing so drives cultural change. To leave the world a better place for the next generations. To leave no trace.
GSB: Sounds very “Burning Man”-ish! How does UCLA go about engaging fans about green?
MD: Pauley Pavilion is where we message the fans. In fact our players and coaches provide sustainability, recycling-focused messaging that you’ll see on the concourses. Football has been more of a challenge as we, of course, play our home games at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The stadium and grounds are owned not by UCLA but by the City of Pasadena and the Rose Bowl Group. So we don’t control things over there. But, over time, we are creating a great partnership with shared values as we’ve pushed sustainability and fan engagement programs
GSB: That’s good to hear. So will be seeing fan-focused sustainability messaging at the Rose Bowl next season?
MD: Either 2017 or 2018.
GSB: I look forward to seeing what that messaging is—and to seeing UCLA play in the 2018 Rose Bowl Game.
MD: You and me both!