Stadium Season is Upon Us

With Major League Baseball’s playoff season heating up and the kickoff of both college and pro football seasons just around the corner, fans will be lining up at the gates of stadiums across the country. With ticket prices peaking to premium levels for even regular-season college football games, the price of seeing a game in a stadium can be daunting. But most fans in the stands or at home watching on TV don’t consider the environmental cost of sporting events.

According to the United Nations Environment Program, the amount of consumables used and discarded at a sporting event is staggering. At one European football (soccer for all you colonials) game, 10,000 to 20,000 cubic meters (eight Olympic swimming pools) of water and two to three million kilowatt hours of electricity (enough to power 500 to 700 European households annually) are consumed, while five to ten tons of waste are generated. Now, multiply that figure by the amount of games taking place on any given weekend in the fall across the United States, and the nation’s pastime begins to look a bit less benign than peanuts and crackerjacks.

The outlook isn’t hopeless, however. There are marked improvements in stadium designs, and with many of the stadiums constructed by educational institutions, it makes sense that they might begin embracing environmental design aspects not only for their environmental impact but also for their educational value. Take, for example, Oregon State where the Beavers completed a football stadium expansion that, while not LEED-certified, did take into account many sustainable design considerations in its construction. And, the UConn Huskies recently finished construction on the Burton Family Football Complex, a training facility that became the first LEED-registered complex in the NCAA.

The trend is expanding to professional sports as well. The Minnesota Twins expect to break ground this year on their new stadium which will aim for LEED certification. Likewise, the Washington Nationals plan to complete their LEED-certified stadium by spring 2008. While there were heated discussions as to whether the stadium would be LEED-certified, the tide seems to be moving in favor of certification, though probably not to the Silver status previously planned. With a total project cost of $611 million, the extra five to ten million dollars needed to reach Silver certification seems a small price to pay for the future economic, environmental, and social impacts certification could provide.

And the social impact of a LEED-certified stadium cannot be underestimated. Simply consider the audience a stadium could reach on an annual basis, through both game-day attendance and on-air broadcasts. With a potential audience of millions annually, the educational possibilities could do more for the environment than the stadium itself. Just imagine John Madden and Al Michaels discussing sustainable design and green roofing during a future Sunday Night Football matchup – now that’s something even Cowboys and Redskins fans could agree on.

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