How green is my team?

Our view: Sports stadiums get into the eco-friendly act

November 21, 2010

The Ravens don't play the Eagles this year, but they're at risk of falling behind in one other important competition: the race for the NFL's greenest stadium.

Stadiums are big consumers of electricity and producers of waste, but they're trying to clean up their acts. In the last four years Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium has cut its appetite for electricity by 2 million kilowatt hours — about what 144 average households use in a year. This was thanks in part to replacing the old high definition video board, which required massive air conditioning, with a new system that runs without needing climate control. Installing low-flush toilets, along with other conservation measures, has cut water usage by over 40 percent in the past five years. Even tailgating has gotten greener as the stadium recycling program, which has collected an average of 8 tons per game, has extended to the parking lots, a source of many empty beverage containers.

But Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field, which already recycled close to 32 percent of its waste, upped the ante last week. The Eagles announced plans to ring their stadium with wind turbines and solar panels. These measures, along with installing a generator that runs on natural gas and biodiesel, are progress toward making it the first stadium capable of generating its own electricity.

The Maryland Stadium Authority, which pays the utility bills for M&T and Oriole Park at Camden Yards, looked into putting solar panels on the roof of the Warehouse, but had to abandon that play as too expensive.

Still, Baltimore stadium officials have a few trick plays left. One is the Resco plant that sits about three footballs fields south of the stadium. Any stadium waste that can't be recycled goes to Resco, where it converted to steam energy. This means M&T can boast that it is a land-fill free facility, big talk in environmental circles.

Another idea in the works is capturing the rainwater from the surrounding parking lots. Sometime this spring drains will be installed that transform the paved lots into one big 10,000 gallon rain barrel that will water the nearby landscape.

Stadium operators are getting greener not only because it is good public relations but also because it saves them money. The Maryland Stadium Authority knocked $1.1 million off the utility bills from running M&T, Oriole Park and the Warehouse. That's the kind of green all taxpayers can appreciate.

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