This op-ed was originally published by Sports Business Journal.
As the heart of civic life, sports teams have a unique opportunity to be a leader in the environmental change movement. The greatest civilizations in the world have centered around large gathering places where people come together to talk, interact, enjoy sports and entertainment, and even engage in political debate. Today, sports venues are no different — they serve as the 21st century communal fireplace.
When we set out to build the new Sacramento Kings arena in downtown Sacramento, we asked more than 20,000 Sacramentans what they wanted to achieve in their new arena, Golden 1 Center. Across the board the answer was: “To become a model of sustainability.”
And that is what we built. Our new arena achieves the highest sustainability standards, becoming the world’s only 100 percent solar-powered and LEED platinum-certified arena — putting it in the top 3 percent of all buildings scored by the organization.
By moving our arena downtown, we are reducing average miles traveled per attendee by 20 percent, cutting overall air emissions by 24 percent, and by 2020, will have reduced travel-related greenhouse gas emissions per attendee by 36 percent.
As the first-ever indoor/outdoor arena in the world, we’re able to take advantage of the region’s natural cooling phenomenon — The Delta Breeze — to control the building’s climate efficiently.
We built seven green outdoor walls totaling 4,800 square feet — covering two-thirds of the arena — as a living symbol of sustainability, installed low-flow plumbing fixtures throughout the arena, which can save over 40 percent of a typical arena’s water consumption, and ensured 99 percent of our demolition materials from the construction of the arena — over 101,000 tons — were recycled and diverted from landfills.
We’re also committed to serving our greater community’s dedication to local sustainability. Ninety percent of the food served in our arena comes from local farms and growers within 150 miles of the arena — allowing us to provide the freshest food to our guests while empowering local businesses and creating additional energy savings.
Today, the Sacramento Kings are the most sustainable franchise in all of sports. That isn’t just good for the planet, it’s also good for the economy. Our arena welcomed 1 million guests within six months of opening and has generated nearly $537 million in property sales and created 4,000 new permanent jobs. We’re also attracting top acts to Sacramento, making the city a must-stop destination for the world’s leading performers.
While Golden 1 Center is a model of sustainability, my hope is for the next new arenas that are built to break even more ground. We can only beat back climate change and improve our environment if everyone does their part. And it’s heartening to see that progress is happening already.
Thanks to an innovative cooling system, the new Yankee Stadium saves nearly as much energy each day as 125 New York City apartments shutting off their air conditioning for a summer day. The new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta is set to follow Sacramento as the second LEED Platinum certified sports facility, which will include 4,000 solar panels on the roof and a unique 1.1 million gallon water storage system to recapture rainwater for landscape irrigation and the cooling towers. And in just 10 years, the Seattle Seahawks went from diverting only 4 percent of the waste from CenturyLink Field from landfills to 97 percent.
Together with our customers and fans, sports teams have an important role to play in battling climate change. According to the Green Sports Alliance, just 13 percent of people follow science, but 71 percent of people follow sports. We believe sports teams don’t just have the opportunity but a responsibility to drive meaningful change in their communities by educating their fans on the reality of climate change and feasibility in combating it.
Recently, we hosted hundreds of thought leaders and innovators from the sports world to share insights and experiences in environmental awareness at the Green Sports Alliance Summit, in hopes that they take action to preserve the planet and intelligently utilize our resources.
As climate change continues to pose a threat to our way of life, business leaders are a critical part of the solution. Through sport as a platform for good, we’re witnessing tremendous strides and new records in how businesses operate, how fans mitigate their impact on the planet, and how together, communities are working to preserve our environment for generations to come.
I have no doubt that sports teams, their fans, and partners will drive action and environmental awareness around the world by standing as examples of innovation and education.