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Sports stadiums and their environmental impacts

What are the ways in which sports stadiums impact our environment?

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Joining approximately 140 other sports stadiums in the United States, the NFL’s largest stadium, SoFi Stadium, opened in Inglewood, California last year. But is bigger necessarily better? Stadiums can have negative environmental impacts. From concrete construction to transportation, venues like SoFi can impact our earth with air pollution and waste disposal.

We spoke to Jonathan Casper, North Carolina State University’s professor in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management to learn about sports stadiums’ negative impacts but also the ways SoFi Stadium, in particular, has been able to push towards creating a greener game.

CASPER: “Fans that are coming and going from a stadium and when we think about the environmental impact, that is the number one factor because its the transportation to and from facilities that is by far the leading contributor.”

SoFi can hold up to 100,000 fans so there’s no doubt they’re part of this environmental equation. Capser did a study to see just how big of an environmental impact fans make.

CASPER: “You have a lot of cars entering pretty much all at the same time and then most importantly where we found the pollution issue was all exiting at the same time when the game ends. That creates a huge amount of pollution in a very short amount of time.”

Fans contribute to the footprint, but what about the stadiums’ physical construction?

CASPER: “The negative aspects just relate to the sheer infrastructure and operations that it takes to run any large facility period. Not just the actual material but you’re talking about the construction vehicles, and the gas, and equipment that relates to the actual construction process.”

Like Casper says, concrete and steel are essential materials when building stadiums. With Sofi now the largest NFl stadium at 3.1 million square feet, approximately 40,000 cubic yards of concrete went into that construction.

CASPER: “You might be taking away green space that ordinarily might have been there which is never a great thing to do. "

Despite the negative impacts, stadiums like SoFi are making positive environmental footprints too. For example, SoFi’s roof was built with energy savings in mind from green construction and sustainable materials.

CASPER: “The landscape design that goes into it has become a lot more thoughtful about how they think about their environmental impact overall.”

One other big push over the years has been the use of LED lights over fluorescent lights. SoFi now holds the most LED lights in a sports or entertainment venue.

CAPSPER: “LED lights, first of all, they’re much more efficient, don’t let off heat which makes them a lot more energy efficient overall. From an environmentally, sustainability point of view, they are 100 times more efficient than the traditional, older light bulbs.”

Though changes that can be made, we’re starting to see more professional sports departments put sustainable practices in place. From the NHL’s green initiative to the Atlanta Falcons energy efficient Mercedes Benz Stadium, sports organizations and stadiums are capable of truly changing the game.

For Annenberg Media, I’m Chloe Clark.