Seattle’s Stadium Offers a Lesson in Sustainability

Notes from the Climate Pledge Arena

By Jonny Amon, Calling the Audible

If there were a city to showcase the possibilities of sustainability and stadium technology, Seattle would be it. The Climate Pledge Arena offers an on-the-nose name for a foreign problem to many sports teams – how should teams go about making its stadiums more sustainable? In the sports-crazed environment that the United States foster, where teams are always competing for the nicest amenities in addition to championships, what will it take for a team to prioritize other variables?

New stadiums are generally heralded for their luxurious locker rooms, giant screens, and in stadium connectivity. The AT&T stadium in Dallas comes to mind, unveiling two back to back screens over the field that each weigh 1.2 million pounds and stretch from 20 yard line to 20 yard line. That this new stadium was unveiled in Texas, where Everything Is Bigger, was a fitting tribute to the state.

When AT&T stadium was first unveiled, a report from the Wall Street Journal appeared, mentioning that the stadium used 10 Megawatts of Energy during a home game. The article also mentioned that this number, for context, was more than the entire nation of Liberia, a country of 5 million people, might use in one day. While this number and comparison seems arbitrary, it gives a sense of scale to what the Cowboys are using. One might imagine that the other football stadiums hosting games might also contribute a reasonable amount on Sunday afternoons around the US.

So if stadiums continue to compete with each other for the biggest screens, highest attendances, and best amenities – can the tide shift?

The Climate Pledge Arena operates in a traditional manner. The Seattle based arena most famously hosts both the Kraken (NFL) and the Storm (WNBA), in addition to a women’s roller derby league. Between the sporting events, the arena also hosts comedians and musical performers such as Adam Sandler and Guns N Roses, making it one of the entertainment hotspot in Washington.

However, the ultimate goal of the stadium moves in a different direction. On the stadium’s home page, almost at the top of the screen, one might see its environmental pledge, and its commitment to cut out single use plastics and fossil fuels. Climate Pledge Arena, which partnered with Amazon to complete the project, takes the name of a movement, instead of a corporation to highlight its commitment.

On its website, the stadium lists its 4 chief goals.

  • To be Carbon Zero
  • To be completely free of single use plastics
  • Implement water conservation system, using rain runoff to create “Green” ice for hockey games
  • Achieve zero waste

These goals are notable, and require innovative strategies to complete them. Fans also need to be educated to comply with the programs, requiring marketing campaigns that promote the goals and how to achieve them. Even after all of the programs are implemented, including solar panels, removing all plastics, and using waterless urinals, the team will likely still need to purchase carbon credits to achieve Carbon Zero.

The Climate Pledge Arena team have a big advantage, a population that fully stands behind its mission. Seattle is known for its focus on sustainability, and the stadium tour even features a portion of its tours to describe all of the relevant projects. Knowing that its decisions are approved by the public likely makes the transition much easier for the arena management.

The difference between Seattle and Dallas is stark, and the prevailing general attitudes in both places is shown through the two stadiums. The onus is on team owners to make the right decision, and begin to incorporate sustainability efforts in future plans, hopefully even finding a way to make the the 60 yard long television sustainable in the long run.

Jonny Amon is a lifelong sports fan from Daytona Beach, Fla. In college at Georgetown University, he wrote about both college and professional sports for the Georgetown Voice, the school newsmagazine. Having recently graduated with a Master’s in sustainability, Jonny is now writing a newsletter about the intersection of sports and climate, looking to highlight the increasing overlap between the two topics.

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