As followers of the GreenSportsBlog know, I’ve been writing a series of occasional posts on the “greenness” (or lack thereof) of the 6 new stadia/arenas that have been constructed in the last 6-7 years in the NY-NJ area. The fourth and most recent featured Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ, the home of Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls, which opened in2010. That post, like the rest of the series, relied on phone interviews and research of publicly-available news stories. The opportunity to tour the facilities and to ask questions of the project directors would certainly make for more informative posts.
Well, yesterday, I was fortunate and excited to be able to tour Red Bull Arena as part of the Green Sports Alliance Summit. The Summit, which started today and runs through Wednesday (I’ll be attending Tuesday and Wednesday and blogging from there), is running several NY-NJ stadium tours. It’s almost as if they wanted to make my series meatier! Attendees were only allowed to choose one tour so I picked Red Bull Arena with the idea of amplifying the original post. Here’s what I learned.
Red Bull Arena
- The greenest aspect of Red Bull Arena may be its location on a reclaimed Brownfield site. Contamination at the former 10 acre steel mill was massive. Cleanup/remediation, initiated by the Town of Harrison, began in 2006, but was accelerated greatly once the Red Bulls began building the arena in 2008. Cleaning up the Brownfield 3-4 years earlier than originally projected is a big deal! While the site is still being monitored by NJ Department of Environmental Protection for groundwater contamination, the inspections, which at one point were every 3 months, are now conducted yearly. The hope is that those inspections will no longer be needed in about a year.
- The lighting system, from Musco Lighting, is quite advanced on several levels and, thus, the arena requires far fewer lights than a less technologically advanced arena:
- The translucent roof, state-of-the-art and spectacular aesthetically, helps keep light in during late afternoons/dusk which means the lights can be used less.
- Engineers took into account the urban light effect of both Newark and New York City when determining the necessary amount of lightbulbs.
The beautiful translucent roof at Red Bull Arena
- The Red Bulls did not build the Arena to LEED standards. According to Amorosa, that was largely because the design phase for the building was largely completed in 2006 when LEED certification standards for outdoor arenas/stadia were first being developed. To go back and restart the design process would have cost around $500,000 so LEED was not pursued.
- Similarly LED bulbs are not currently in use. Again, cost was cited. Red Bull Arena hosts only 25 event days per year, so the payback on an investment in LEDs is likely quite long.
- The Arena only buys 10% of its electricity from green sources. Yes, there is a premium to be paid for buying 100% green but that premium is getting smaller all the time. With annual electricity use of 8,100 mWh, the annual premium for upping the green percentage from 10% to 100% would only be $8,100. Seems like the right statement for a hugely profitable company like Red Bull to make. An opportunity missed.
My overall take is that, while Red Bull Arena is operated sustainably in many facets (NOTE: We did not learn much about the Food Service aspect of the operation as that is handled by Delaware North Sportservice and they weren’t represented on the tour), “going green” was not a high priority during design and construction. The construction director who led our tour is justifiably proud of an absolutely gorgeous stadium that gets better than passing energy efficiency grades; I think he’d be prouder if corporate parent Red Bull would invest a modest amount to buy electricity from wind, solar and hydro.