Ballpark to reflect eco-friendly trend
Every baseball stadium has its own personality, an aura that reflects the spirit of its city, its players, and the fans that attend home games 81 times during the regular baseball season.
Major League Baseball’s Miami Marlins say that their new $515-million stadium will be no different. It will exemplify South Florida with its vibrant décor, dazzling views, and, significantly, a plethora of environmental features.
Solar panels that capitalize on natural light. Waterless urinals that save up to six million gallons of water a year. A vivid $2.5-million, 74-foot sculpture by pop artist Red Grooms just below the scoreboard that will set off mechanical birds, palm trees and dolphins in celebration whenever a Marlin hits a home run. Metro-friendly location two miles from downtown Miami that makes it easier for some fans to get to the stadium on public transportation.
The eco-friendly Marlins stadium is part of a trend among professional teams in America. Baseball’s Minnesota Twins and Washington Nationals have built “greener” stadiums, as have the National Hockey League’s Pittsburgh Penguins.
Even teams with older stadiums are updating to become more efficient. The National Football League’s Philadelphia Eagles installed solar panels and wind turbines in their Lincoln Financial Field. Baseball’s Boston Red Sox upgraded their near-century-old Fenway Park with 28 solar panels that yield nearly 37 percent of the energy needed to heat the stadium’s water.
Brad Clark, whose firm Populous designed the Marlins stadium that debuts in 2012, said in an interview with CNN that there was no question that stadium building trends have “changed substantially.”
“Fifteen, twenty years ago,” he said, “if we did one of these projects there would be literally no discussion about sustainability.”
“Greening” a stadium used to mean additional construction costs of four percent to five percent. But with smarter stadiums becoming more commonplace, the cost of those upgrades has fallen. Now, Clark says, the additional cost is down to one percent or, in some cases, even less.
When it comes to the weather, fans at the new 37,000-seat stadium in Miami can be assured they won’t be sweating under the blistering sun or ducking from raindrops. The stadium will be climate-controlled, bringing the average game time temperature down from 85 degrees at the Marlins’ old Sun Life Stadium to a more comfortable 75 degrees. The white-top retractable roof opens and shuts in less than 15 minutes, which is perfect for those unpredictable South Florida rainstorms.
And the stadium doesn’t skimp on style points, either. It has a “sleek, cool style, punctuated with pastels and plenty of access to the outdoors,” says Jeffrey Loria, the Marlins owner.
The epitome of that sleekness may be the unique twin saltwater aquariums that flank home plate, providing baseball fans with a first-hand glimpse of the fish and coral reefs that are emblematic of South Florida. The aquarium to the left of the pitcher’s mound will be 34 feet long and 3 feet high. It will be filled with over 600 gallons of seawater. The aquarium on the opposite side will be slightly smaller.
Of course, there may be a collective wince, or maybe cheer, from the crowd every time a foul ball fires back and hits the glass. But fear not. The aquariums are made with a Fiberglass material, Lexan that is regularly used to make bulletproof windows. So fish and fans will be safe from foul balls there.
Ad campaigns for the stadium declare it the “coolest stadium ever.” It will certainly be one of the greenest.
That official judgment comes from the U.S. Green Building Council, which recognizes excellence in environmental efficiency. The organization awards buildings points for each environmentally conscious feature: from installing bicycle racks to recycling unused construction material. Accumulated points add up to one of three certification levels: Platinum, Gold, or Silver.
The Marlins stadium will receive the organization’s Silver certificate for achievements in sustainable site development, water and energy savings, types of building materials, and indoor environmental quality.
“The Marlins are setting a national example of how to build a facility in the middle of an urban neighborhood that is environmentally responsible and sustainable,” says John Creighton, who is vice president and general manager of Global WorkPlace Solutions.
So far, about 98 percent of construction waste has been diverted to recycling centers, and 41 percent of the cost of building materials has been for things made of recycled goods.
In an effort to conserve energy, the stadium has installed large glass panels that let in natural light. “A lot of people don’t connect natural lighting with energy savings, but when you have natural light, you use less artificial light, which also generates heat,” Kyle Abney, president of the U.S. Green Building Council, told the Miami Herald.
And if there’s one thing Miami has plenty of, it’s natural light.
The debate over who would pay for the stadium consumed Miami. Public disapproval was a factor in the successful recall vote against Carlos Alvarez as mayor of Miami-Dade County, which includes Miami and nearly 30 other towns and cities. In the final accounting, the Marlins and owner Jeffrey Loria are paying less than 30 percent of the total costs of the stadium.
The other 70 percent, or about $360 million, is coming out of Miami-Dade County taxpayers’ pockets.
Speaking in an HBO television documentary with Bryant Gumbel, then-Miami-Dade County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez said he opposed the public financing from the beginning because he thought the Marlins “were hiding something.” Gimenez later replaced Alvarez as mayor of Miami-Dade County.
While the county’s share of the financing was being batted about, the Marlins refused to open their financial records. “In Major League Baseball history, books are just kept private. That’s just how it is,” Marlins President David Samson said in the documentary with Gumbel.
And perhaps with good reason. A leak of the team’s financial records by sports website Deadspin.com revealed that in 2008 and 2009, when the Marlins were lobbying for public money, they were highly profitable, bringing in net income of around $50 million.
But Samson says those figures have no bearing on the fairness of the deal. “We gave the impression correctly,” he said, “that this was a franchise that could not survive in Miami without a new ballpark and did not have the wherewithal to build a ballpark without a public-private partnership.”
It will take time to know whether the new stadium is going to be financially good for Miami-Dade County and its people.
But either way, the building of a greener stadium with awe-inspiring features is a significant leap in professional sports construction.
And Miami has a baseball stadium that reflects its personality: Bright, shiny aesthetics that also involve its delicate and beautiful natural surroundings.
“From the distinctive local ballpark cuisine and magnificent city views, to our unique home plate aquariums,” says Loria, the Marlins’ owner, “nothing will better symbolize South Florida than our new ballpark.”