As Americans gear up to “root, root, root for the home team” on Major League Baseball’s (MLB’s) Opening Day, they might be too focused on the games to notice that their stadium is more efficient than it used to be. Professional ballparks average 1 million square feet and together host more than 73 million Americans each year – which means there are a lot of opportunities for improvements that enhance visitor experience, save stadium owners and operators money, and reduce energy and water use.
Taking the Field, a recent report funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, takes a closer look at how sport venues are finding opportunities to deploy energy saving strategies. The study also found that 53% of North American professional sports teams have energy efficiency programs and more than 30% have incorporated renewable resources into their operations. As venues share their successes, owners and operators are scoring on savings opportunities from lighting and plumbing retrofits to the installation of renewable energy systems such as solar photovoltaics.
“This is an important report that shows how we’re all trying to find ways to save energy and make our stadiums better examples of sustainable leadership,” said Joe Abernathy, vice president of stadium operations for the St. Louis Cardinals. “At Busch Stadium, we launched our 4 a Greener Game initiative in 2008 which has helped us save 20% in energy, 30% in solid waste and 10% in water.”
Some sustainable baseball stadiums leading the way include:
By switching to compact fluorescent lights, Busch Stadium has cut its energy costs by 20%. Under the 4 a Greener Game initiative, the stadium has also installed more energy-efficient heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems throughout the ballpark.
Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners, saved approximately $1.5 million from 2006 to 2011 from reducing energy, electricity, and water use. In 2014, the Mariners became the first MLB team to illuminate the playing field with LED lights, which reduces power usage at Safeco Field by 784,000 kilowatt hours each season – saving more than $50,000 in energy costs alone.
Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals in Washington, D.C., is the first MLB stadium to be certified silver in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. As a result, it should use 15% less energy than a comparable ballpark. Its roof materials offer a high degree of reflectance, minimizing the amount of heat released to the environment. In addition, there is a 6,300 square foot green roof above the concession area beyond left field that also minimizes roof heat gain.
U.S. Bank Stadium
U.S. Bank Stadium, secondary home of the NCAA Minnesota Golden Gophers (and Minnesota Vikings), was built with sustainability principles in mind. Multiple energy saving design and equipment decisions regarding the building’s shell (or envelope), lighting, and HVAC systems were incorporated to reduce energy consumption almost 35% compared to a standard stadium, totaling an annual energy savings of $1.26 million.
Bringing it Home
With at least 1,500 sports facilities across America, stadiums represent a unique opportunity for energy savings. However, they also present unique challenges compared to other commercial buildings. No other building type sees the vast swing in occupants experienced by stadiums on a regular basis. For instance, a MLB park may go from minimal maintenance staff in the off-season to more than 40,000 fans on opening day.
According to the report, energy savings will require greater partnership to better benchmark and track energy consumption, increased adoption of best-in-class energy efficiency technologies and strategies, and shared lessons learned across the sports community to help ensure these often iconic buildings can continue to lead on energy and water performance.
Check out the report to learn more about how this sector is helping unlock key technology innovations in areas like lighting, refrigeration, occupant comfort, measurement and verification, and renewables.