Across most of Major League Baseball (MLB), teams are turning greener than the outfield grass, reports the June 2009 issue of E – The Environmental Magazine (now posted at www.emagazine.com/view/?4664). They’re reducing energy consumption, extending recycling efforts, and taking the first steps into renewable energy. So far, four parks, including Fenway Park in Boston, the nation’s oldest, draw some of their power from solar energy.
There’s activity on the construction side as well, with green stadiums opening in each of the last two years, and another one on the way for 2010. Citi Field, the new home of the New York Mets, just opened in April. Last season brought Nationals Park in Washington, the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified Major League stadium (it reached the silver level), and next season promises a new park in Minnesota seeking LEED gold.
Building from the ground up gives new parks environmental opportunities that existing parks don’t have. Both Nationals Park and Citi Field have energy-efficient field lighting and waterless and low-flow plumbing fixtures, for example, and both designs incorporate green (vegetative) roofs and white (reflective) roofs to battle the heat-island effect. Additionally, both projects emphasized using recycled steel and concrete, and minimized construction waste sent to landfills.
But it’s not only new stadiums that are getting a green makeover. The previous Red Sox owners were loudly on record as wanting to relocate to the city’s waterfront, where, if they’d wanted to, they could have achieved all sorts of green firsts ‚ not to mention considerable new revenue streams. But the owners decided to update the current ballpark instead, preserving not only its historical allure but all its embodied energy, a fact acknowledged by the city last year when it named Fenway one of its 12 greenest buildings.
The pros use only quality baseball equipment and gear.
It is likely that the vast majority of green construction work over the next several decades will also be renovation, not new construction.‚ MLB is at the end of an epic building boom, and most parks are far nearer their beginnings their ends.
Stadiums “don’t simply get built and then remain intact for 30-40 years,” says John McHale, MLB’s executive vice president for administration. “There’s a lot of rearranging and re-purposing of space, probably at the 8-10 year mark, and then again at 20‚about every decade. I expect the renovation work is going to be done with a much higher consciousness to LEED certification than has ever been the case.”
Expanding the Field
And the promotional opportunities are evident to more than just the National Resources Defense Council‚which has partnered with MLB‚and the teams. All four of the solar installations at MLB parks‚at the homes of the Colorado Rockies, the San Francisco Giants, the Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians‚were funded in part by local utilities or nonprofits.
In Cleveland, the club was approached by the nonprofit group Green Energy Ohio, the host of the 2007 National Solar Conference, “because they wanted a show piece for the attendees to come see,” says Brad Mohr, assistant director of ballpark operations. The result was a 42-panel, 8.4-kilowatt array.
Mohr, a passionate proponent of renewable energy who now is investigating wind turbines for the club, thinks the panels will not only influence “the average person used to coal burning,” but could also yield an even broader benefit: “What I’m hoping for is that a startup will see that photovoltaics work at this latitude, recognize that Northeast Ohio has an incredibly skilled labor force from the car manufacturing plants that have closed,” and open a plant, he says.
How the Yankees Dropped the Ball
To environmentalists and residents in surrounding New York neighborhoods, a Bronx cheer seems the most appropriate response to the new Yankee Stadium project. They and some of the stadium’s Bronx neighbors are furious at the Yankees and the city for building over 22 acres of public parkland and cutting down 377 mature trees, 70% of the local tree population in a poor area that already had a sky-high asthma rate.
While the stadium accommodates fewer spectators (52,325, including standing room), it boasts more concessionaires, restrooms and nearly double the retail space of the old haunts. There are also more luxury suites: 56 instead of 19, plus 410 “party suites.”‚ Front-row seats sell for a Ruthian $2,500 each.
But don’t expect to see parks advocates lining up for them at the turnstiles.‚ “Kids were crying while they chopped down these trees with no warning whatsoever,” says Geoffrey Croft, president of New York City Park Advocates and outspoken opponent of the stadium project.
Critics cite among their grievances the secretive nature of the city’s deal to allow the Yankees to pave over popular Macombs Dam and John Mullaly parks, which was negotiated and signed before the public was informed, they say. Protests and legal actions against the project were unsuccessful.
“Everybody just loves the Yankees so much that they wouldn’t even consider what the people had to say,” says Karen Argenti, a board member of the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality, which also opposed the new stadium. “There were no elected officials who would stand up for the community. It was impossible to get a fair hearing on this.”
E – The Environmental Magazine distributes 50,000 copies six times per year to subscribers and bookstores. Its website, www.emagazine.com, enjoys 100,000 monthly visitors. E also publishes EarthTalk, a nationally syndicated environmental Q&A column distributed free to 1,750 newspapers, magazines and websites throughout the U.S. and Canada ( www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/thisweek). Single copies of E’s May/June 2009 issue are available for $5 postpaid from: E Magazine, P.O. Box 469111, Escondido, CA 92046. Subscriptions are $29.95 per year, available at the same address.