Pro Football Stadiums Go Green

From solar to recycling, these initiatives are greener than astroturf

By Scott Donahue

October 3, 2013

Pro football stadiums are going green

Photo by Shutterstock.

Now more than ever, NFL team executives, environmentally conscious contractors, and scientists are teaming up and making plays to cover their carbon footprints and conserve energy. And while football season is rushing into mid-season and tailgaters fire up their electric grills, big ideas in sustainable football stadiums give both fans and football organizations across the country a new reason to profess their love for the game as well as the planet.  

Teaming Up: Out of over 100 sports venues from all over the world — from newly built basketball arenas, Bowl stadiums, baseball cathedrals, and soccer pitches in Germany, England, and Australia to name a few —  eight NFL stadiums have teamed up with non-profit organization Green Sports Alliance.  The alliance's mission is simply put: "to help sports teams, venues and leagues enhance their environmental performance." 

Going Solar: The Jets' and Giants' home turf of MetLife Stadium is crowned with a custom-built ring of NRG solar panels. These 1,500 panels light up in team colors during night games and last year they saved $43,000 in energy costs. MetLife will host this season's Superbowl in 2014, setting a gold standard for high-tech green stadiums on a worldwide scale.

Saving Water: In rainy Seattle, CenturyLink Field and Seattle-based contractors McKinstry came up with an ingenious plan to save water under their Defend Your Turf campaign. According to their infographic, by retrofitting all of the bathroom urinals with ultra-low-flow water fixtures, the stadium saved more 1.3 million gallons of water per year — enough water to turn any football field into a swimming pool.

Empowering Fans:  At Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO, Chiefs fans tailgate tidily. Blue plastic bags conveniently placed in front of parking spots encourage proper disposal of recyclables. The entrance to the stadium is also surrounded by hundreds of blue recycling bins. The Atlanta Falcons organization and associates with the Georgia Dome created an incentive program for their fans to recycle, titled "Get Caught in the Act," in which who fans get "caught" on camera recycling a can or bottle. The video is shown on the stadium big screen for all to see, and that lucky fan receives a big prize and recognition from fellow fans.  

Encouraging Competition: NCAA athletic organizations trounce NFL organizations when it comes to sustainable stadiums — all thanks to the "Green Power Challenge" organized by the EPA. The results of 2012's competition were astonishing: 32 college programs rose to the challenge, producing energy-saving standouts from Ivy League schools and even football powerhouses like U. of Oklahoma Sooners, who generated 85% green power in one year.  

Only the Beginning: Although NFL teams have some catching up to do in the competition with their alma maters, up-and-coming stadiums, like the 49er's Levi's Stadium currently under way in Santa Clara, lead the way with innovating concepts in design, from photovoltaic solar panels, to bike friendly features, and even a roof composed of real growing grass. With all these innovations, we're excited to see teams taking green initiatives for that set an example for football organizations, fans, and future efforts in greening sports.