UA Joins Green Sports Alliance
UA athletics and recreation facilities and programs include a variety of "green" features, such as solar panels, rainwater harvesting and high-efficiency lighting and plumbing.

By Alexis Blue, University Communications
April 19, 2013

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The UA Student Recreation Center was the first campus recreation center in the country to achieve Platinum LEED  certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for its sustainable design.
The UA Student Recreation Center was the first campus recreation center in the country to achieve Platinum LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for its sustainable design. (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)

For its commitment to sustainability in athletic facilities and programming, the University of Arizona has been accepted as one of the newest members of the Green Sports Alliance, a national nonprofit organization that aims to help sports teams, venues and leagues enhance environmental performance.

The UA is one of just nine colleges to date to join the 160-plus-member alliance, which brings together sports organizations and environmental experts in an effort to improve the environmental performance of athletics facilities and operations.

"The UA is a recognized leader for sustainability and environmental research, education, campus practices and outreach," said Joe Abraham, director of the UA's Office of Sustainability. "Joining the alliance reflects our broader commitment to sustainability, including well-performing facilities and events, engaging fans and student athletes about smart and responsible practices, and demonstrating how this enhances our already excellent Intercollegiate Athletics and Campus Recreation sports programs."

The UA's acceptance into the organization comes just in time for Earth Day on April 22.

The University demonstrates its commitment to sustainability in sports and recreation in a number of ways.

The UA Student Recreation Center was the first campus recreation center in the country to achieve Platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for its sustainable design. Some of the facility's environmentally friendly features include recycled rubber flooring, water harvesting features, high-efficiency lighting and plumbing, and 346 rooftop vacuum-tube solar thermal collectors, which harvest almost 2 million kilowatt hours of solar energy a year, used to help cool campus buildings and heat the rec center's 55,000-gallon Olympic-sized swimming pool.

"With close to 62,000 student visits and almost 835,000 total visits to Campus Recreation last year, plus all our other sports and wellness programs, we look forward to partnering with the Office of Sustainability and other UA units to advance our institutional sustainability goals," said Lynn Zwaagstra, director of Campus Recreation.

Arizona Stadium, home to Arizona Wildcat Football, also is taking steps to be more eco-friendly. In 2010, new light fixtures were installed at the stadium to reduce light pollution by 75 percent. The stadium is currently undergoing renovations that will expand seating and include new coaches' offices, an equipment room, a medical treatment center, team meeting rooms, weight and locker rooms and a new cafeteria that will be open to the campus as well as the general public.

Once completed, the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility will achieve at least LEED Silver status from the U.S. Green Building Council. The UA also has announced plans to install synthetic turf at Arizona Stadium in place of natural grass. It will be the second major stadium in the country to install FieldTurf CoolPlay, which reduces on-field temperatures 15 to 20 degrees, while reducing the water consumption previously required to maintain hybrid Bermuda grass.

The UA's Hillenbrand Aquatic Center also has gone "green," using solar panels to generate hot water for the pool and locker room showers.

"In addition to continuing to walk the walk, we look forward to working with and through the Green Sports Alliance to determine and refine best practices and contribute to their adoption by other universities, professional sports teams and venues," said UA Athletics Director Greg Byrne.

All athletic facilities, along with the rest of buildings on the UA campus, are cleaned using environmentally friendly products. The University's green custodial practices have earned the UA's Facilities Management Custodial Services team the Green Guard Environmental Institute's Green Guard Certification, a recognition earned by only a handful of campuses nationwide.

In addition to the UA's green athletics and recreation facilities, there also are a number of eco-friendly sports-related projects and initiatives under way on campus.

For example, ASUA Students for Sustainability, along with UA Facilities Management and Intercollegiate Athletics, are leading the way to increase recycling rates at home sporting events. In fall 2012, more than 25 tons of recyclables was captured over the course of six football games. 

Also, in 2012 the UA initiated a full "Life Cycle Assessment" of Homecoming weekend, a data analysis project with the goal improving the environmental performance of the event, taking into consideration a variety of aspects, such as fan travel, accommodation, food and beverage, waste and materials, energy and water use. The 2012 findings are being used to identify and implement strategies to improve environmental performance of the 2013 Homecoming celebration.

Abraham said the UA's commitment to sustainability in athletics makes it a model for other institutions. "We have a great story, and we are well positioned to lead in this area."


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Joe Abraham
UA Office of Sustainability