Opening a brand new facility is no easy feat, especially one like Rogers Place, a more than one million-square-foot sports complex and arena that anchors a major revitalization of Edmonton’s downtown and is targeting LEED Silver-certification.
The new home of the Edmonton Oilers, part of the first phase of a 25-acre mixed-use development called ICE District, is a place that Mayor Don Iveson has called a symbol of “Edmonton’s bold future as a great Northern city.” But with such high standards also comes an ongoing commitment to sustainable operations, according to advocates in the green sports movement.
Mike McFaul, assistant general manager of facility operations at Rogers Place, is one of these leaders. He is also a founding member of the Green Sports Alliance (Alliance), an international non-profit organization, which advises professional and collegiate venue operations, teams and leagues about green strategies and sustainable best practices. Even before Rogers Place opened its doors, McFaul was planning initiatives related to waste management, green cleaning and energy use.
The facility opened in September 2016, so programs haven’t been fully implemented and measured; however, much is expected in the future.
“One thing that makes it easier for an operator is a building that was designed to be efficient from the beginning,” he says of the complex. “In the weeks and months to come, we expect to realize more efficiencies and reduce consumption, which is always significant.”
A LEED green cleaning program has been implemented through the cleaning contractor, and LEED-EB procurement with regards to purchasing is on tap. Lighting and HVAC schedules that match the occupancy of the facility are also in the works, along with plans for a Sustainability Committee to help propel the sustainable programs. So far, on the waste management end, receiving Front of House permits for trashcans has led to significant improvements in source separating at FOH locations, while the overall landfill diversion rate has quickly hit a target of more than 90 per cent.
“That is one of those things that you plan and plan and plan before you open, and our landfill diversion program has gone exactly liked I hoped it would.” says McFaul, adding that this success wouldn’t have been possible without available infrastructure in place.
Championing green sports venues is something McFaul has been a part of for many years, as former director of facility operations for First & Goal Inc., operators of CenturyLink Field in Seattle, home to the National Football League’s Seattle Seahawks. He also recently served as director of engineering and maintenance for BC Place Stadium in downtown Vancouver.
Early conversations with colleagues about recycling cardboard and aluminum turned into strategizing about composting and zero waste, utility management, procurement and enticing fans to car pool and take public transportation. Over time, a whole new conversation around social sustainability began to percolate.
“It’s something we talk about at the Green Sports Alliance—the ability of professional sports franchises to influence behavior in terms of environmental awareness, particularly with kids,” adds McFaul. “I think we have a unique opportunity and, perhaps, a social responsibility to do those things.”
Such venues are part of the landscape of a city. The iconic sports brands attached to them, coupled with the millions of people who move in and out every year, present an opportunity for sustainable engagement, notes Justin Zeulner, executive director and founding board member of the Alliance.
“We quickly realized that is not only good for business, but it actually enhanced our brands, we engaged better with communities and it opened doors to new markets—people feel more connected to you because you’re representing their community. When you put all that together, it creates significant momentum.”
“All good facility leaders understand that their facilities represent a community; they’re a part of something bigger than just themselves.”
Implementing green initiatives also tends to have paybacks that are much greater than other projects, and this includes cost.
“I’m absolutely convinced that sustainable programs are less expensive. Period,” adds McFaul. “Hauling organic materials to a compost facility is less expensive than sending it to landfill. Consuming less energy is less expensive; green cleaning programs cost no more than the alternative.”
Smaller and older venues can also benefit from such programs, despite limited resources. Utility companies offer energy efficient incentives. Buildings can purchase more efficient fixtures and partner with a local utility company on projects, which can offer a favorable return on investment.
“This isn’t about perfection or doing everything all at once,” Zeulner emphasizes. “It’s really about getter better over time and finding a starting place.”
Looking ahead, the Alliance, which started out with six founding members, now has a presence in more than 14 countries and a membership of nearly 400. Last year, it worked with the Obama administration to designate October 6 as Green Sports Day in the U.S., something it would like to see being celebrated in Canada. In June, the 2017 Green Sports Alliance Summit will take place at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California.
From energy and water to waste and procurement, the Alliance is also facilitating a “robust dialogue” through webinars, newsletters and industry stories that serve as a guide for others to follow suit—stories like the ones McFaul looks forward to sharing about Rogers Place.
Rebecca Melnyk is online editor of Canadian Property Management and Facility Cleaning & Maintenance magazines @rebeccachirp
Photo courtesy of Ice District Joint Venture