Closing a retractable roof unexpectedly takes much more than the push of a button. For the comfort of the fans in the seats and the competitive integrity for the athletes, the temperature and humidity inside the closed-roof venue needs to match the outside environment, an onerous undertaking for an HVAC system.  

That process is complicated enough—especially when needing to avoid unexpected consequences such as condensation dripping from the roof onto the playing surface—but the overall expenditure can rise dramatically in this venue’s jurisdiction. 

The real kicker,” said global VP of sports and entertainment Brett Unzicker, is that energy that’s being used, if it goes above the governmentregulated amount that they’re allowed to use, the government can fine them up to a million dollars for having closed that roof. 

Monitoring weather, mitigating climate and implementing sustainability technology is not just an altruistic endeavor, experts at SportTechie’s State of the Industry conference argued, but a business imperative, too. 

Omar Mitchell, the NHL’s VP of sustainable infrastructure and growth initiatives, pointed to the league’s food recovery initiative, the LED lights installed in a majority of arenas and the recent opening of the certified zero-carbon Climate Pledge Arena as steps in the right direction. 

Climate Pledge Arena, home to the NHL’s Seattle Kraken, runs entirely on solar and renewable electric energy.

“Sustainability equals innovation,” he said. This is about continuous process improvement. This is about business optimization.” 

Mitchell added that scaling the same smart home technology to optimize HVAC, refrigeration and dehumidification systems for hockey rinks could lead to major reductions in energy consumption. “That’s the holy grail of how we think about these types of platforms,” he said. Technology is going to be an enabler of that sustainable innovation in the future. 

The NBA’s Atlanta Hawks are awaiting final certification that would make State Farm Arena the league’s first zero-waste venue. In 2019, only a little more than 10% of its waste was being diverted from landfills; just two years later, more than 90% was diverted for compost, reuse or recycling bins, crossing the threshold for the zero-waste designation. Helping lead this effort was Sofi Armenakian, the Hawks’ director of operations and sustainability—the first NBA team exec to have such a title.  

And if it’s possible in the South,</…….


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