In the December 2013 issue of AB, senior editor Paul Steinbach examined the growing interest in stadium and arena sustainability, citing a groundbreaking new study by the Natural Resources Defense Council in collaboration with the Green Sports Alliance and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. The report, “Collegiate Game Changers,” represents the first time that sustainability efforts currently under way at collegiate sports departments have been documented. According to the report, more than 200 college sports programs (including both intercollegiate athletics and campus recreation programs) are prioritizing a greener approach, prompting Alice Henly, coordinator of NRDC’s collegiate sports work and author of the report, to declare in an NRDC press release: “College athletics and recreation programs are leading the sustainability charge.” 

 Some of the notable findings in the report included:

One prominent sports venue to achieve LEED certification is the first one to do so for the New Construction standard: TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota. The NRDC reports that TCF Bank Stadium, which was completed in 2009, annually saves the university $131,000 in energy conservation while reducing carbon-dioxide emissions by 786,000 pounds. The university’s green movement has impacted other athletic facilities, as well. The combined annual savings from energy conversation at eight major athletic facilities is approximately $412,000, with a carbon-dioxide reduction of more than 5.6 million pounds. 

While TCF Bank Stadium serves as an example of how to improve energy efficiency, there are other approaches being implemented at universities across the country as part of a broadening commitment to sustainability. Arizona State has installed at 10 different sports facilities solar arrays that generate approximately 7.5 megawatt hours of electricity each year. North Texas built the nation’s first LEED Platinum certified sports venue, which generates 30 percent of its power from three 121-foot-tall wind turbines next to the stadium. The Ohio State University’s 105,000-seat Ohio Stadium became the largest venue in the country to achieve over 90 percent diversion of waste from landfills, while the University of Arizona’s LEED Platinum-certified recreation center has — with high-efficiency plumbing — reduced water use by 48 percent.

The enthusiasm to go green can sometimes be curbed by the reality of what it costs to go green, especially when changes are being made after a facility has opened its doors. In this issue, Andrew Barnard from Denver-based architecture firm Sink Combs Dethlefs provides valuable insight into what is required for a successful sustainable renovation, including how building owners should measure their return on investment beyond the simple payback model. You can read his article here.

What are you doing at your facility to sustain your sustainability efforts? Share your stories with me at

This article originally appeared in the February 2014 issue of Athletic Business under the headline, "Greener Pastures."