Many cities have invested millions in sports stadiums — often tax dollars — with the expectation that the advent of a modern sports venue will attract strong and disproportionate economic impact. But despite the hopes and dreams — and money — often invested in these massive structures, and further, even when they successfully become iconic local institutions — they are rarely true examples of modern planning or architecture. Many stadiums are in marginal parts of town, have tremendous built-in access and energy conservation problems — and the more successful the local franchise, the worse the resulting traffic and debris is likely to be. “Often times, these venues have acted like tumors for the city, sucking up fiscal and environmental resources while causing more problems for the surrounding community”. That is beginning to change.
At the thin end of the sustainable stadium wedge is the stadium intended for use in the London 2012 Olympics. “It has been made from materials 75 percent lighter than steel, the most common material used to build other stadiums. Low-carbon concrete was used in its construction, which contains 40 percent less carbon than usual.” But the sustainability of these mini-ecosystems — that can often be the size and scale of a town — should probably begin before the materials are considered, with the choice of location. Placing stadiums in inner cities may not be the best placement. perhaps they should go in open tracts where they are less likely to compound urban environmental impacts? Cowboys Stadium in Dallas is an example of careful choice of location. It is also a great example of a valiant attempt to temper a huge production of waste and excess with eco-friendly practices and systems.
Most of the real thrust of this trend though goes into the planning of the construction, fixtures, parking and internal systems of stadiums. For example, in Los Angeles, the efforts is going into retrofitting Farmers Field to make it the first LEED certified NFL stadium. IBM is bringing a somewhat different effort to Miami, using the tools of Smart Cities to collect and analyze all of the data within the stadium “that will mean greater insight into stadium-related analytics for the fan — like parking data. And stadium managers will be able to track visitor traffic, monitor inclement weather, and analyze visitor spending habits in real-time, increasing efficiency and reducing costs.”. One can only project that in the future, all of these practices will intersect, creating sports venues that are all at once located in appropriate settings, built of sustainable materials, and equipped with sensors and computers that permit the smartest possible operation, for the greatest efficiency and cost effectiveness. Stay posted!