Loathsome Football Team, Admirable Football Stadium: Philly’s Lincoln Financial Field Gets Green

Eagles fans: not a gbNYC favorite, admittedly. But everyone, even the NFL’s nastiest fans, deserves sustainable design. A planned retrofit will give them just that. (They’ll still boo it)

It’s not quite Sophie’s Choice, admittedly. But I find myself somewhat torn at the moment — despite being a somewhat casual football fan in terms of rooting interest, I write about the sport a lot in my other writing life, and have — in the football column I write for The Awl — admittedly once referred to Philadelphia Eagles fans as “a joyless, bellowing herd of perspectiveless barf monsters.” I’ll admit as much. And as much as I only kind of care about the NFL, I definitely do not care for the team for which the aforementioned barf monsters (kind of) cheer. And yet I love the city of Philadelphia and want nothing but good things for it — we can start with a robust campaign of de-programming and basic etiquette lessons for its sports fans, but even beyond that I like Philly and want it to succeed. So how to feel, then, about the very ambitious $30 million green retrofit planned for Lincoln Financial Field, home to the Eagles and the aforementioned joyless, bellowing herd that kinda-sorta supports them? I’ve decided that the answer is good: one should feel good. Because even if the people enjoying the newly efficient stadium are among the nastiest fans in sports, it’s impossible not to like a sports venue that generates a quarter of its power from an array of 2,500 solar panels and 80 stadium-mounted wind turbines, and pulls the rest from an on-site generator that runs on either natural gas or biodiesel.

Are the solar panels and wind turbines an exercise in LEED Brain window dressing? To a certain extent, yes. To a certain extent, the answer to that question is always yes. But only to a certain extent — the Eagles are projecting big energy savings from their deal with the Florida-based company Solar Blue, which will oversee what is shaping up as a very impressive energy retrofit. “Solar Blue chose vertical wind turbines because they produce less noise than bladed ones,” Ken Belson writes in the New York Times. “They will also capture energy at night. The panels and turbines will meet about 25 percent of the stadium’s energy needs, with the generator covering the remainder, and will be visible to fans in the stadium, on television and to drivers passing by. The Eagles will pay Solar Blue fixed amounts for their energy with increases of 3 percent a year over 20 years, which gives Solar Blue a guaranteed buyer and the Eagles a predictable source of renewable energy without worrying about erratic spikes in prices. The Eagles expect that their alliance with Solar Blue will help reduce their energy costs by almost 25 percent in the first year. Solar Blue can sell any excess energy it creates to the local utility, PECO.”

Belson’s article goes on to describe the numerous other green measures that the Eagles have undertaken since moving into Lincoln Financial Field in 2003. Among these are mandating a switch to non-toxic cleaning materials, a composting program and the processing an estimated 10,000 gallons of concession-generated grease and kitchen oil into biodiesel. The presence of an on-site generator will make that last measure look even greener. Belson’s piece, which also offers a nice overview of the numerous other green-stadium initiatives, highlights other stadiums and arenas taking a forward-thinking approach to this most carbon-guzzling of venue — the New Meadowlands Stadium, to choose one such venue at random, features low-flow plumbing fixtures, an efficient HVAC system, and recycled 83 percent of its construction waste. But the full-spectrum dedication of the Eagles to building a greener stadium for their horrible, horrible fans deserves applause regardless of the team playing on the field. So yes: this is us, applauding for the Eagles. Don’t get used to it.

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4 Responses to Loathsome Football Team, Admirable Football Stadium: Philly’s Lincoln Financial Field Gets Green

  1. Anne Whitacre Friday, November 19, 2010 at 10:23 am #

    I, too, think the green efforts of sports teams is admirable if only because its a way to influence a huge number of people at once. However, probably the least green thing about stadia is that most of them are not located where transit is an option and thus bring with them acres of parking, and acres of people all driving to the same place at the same time. (and that parking should be permeable concrete, by the way, if you wanted to be green-er). I would like to see venues of this sort REALLY work on a way to get fewer cars to these events. That would have the effects of mitigating what is always awful traffic and perhaps getting a generally non-transit population more used to the idea of transit.

    • David Roth Friday, November 19, 2010 at 10:53 am #

      Totally right, Anne. Although, and it pains me to defend the Eagles again, Lincoln Financial is accessible by something like five regional rail lines. The real menace, as you pointed out, are the older stadiums or arenas — and, sorry Stephen, virtually all Nascar ovals — that are in outer-ring exurbs and thus essentially accessible only by car. The trend in newer stadiums, from my own anecdotal observation, seems to be to move them closer to the city center, rather than further out in. Distant locations allow for a bigger footprint (and there’s a TON of money to be made off parking), but a huge portion of the people who attend games at the new stadia for the Yankees and Mets, or at Nationals Park in DC, get there by train. It’s just easier that way, for the fans and for the teams.

      There is, honestly, no excuse for the Meadowlands model — the giant, parking lot-buffered venue in the middle of nothing-much. But, you know, the Nets played there, so I’m sentimental about it.

      • Stephen Del Percio Saturday, November 20, 2010 at 9:58 am #

        The Field of Schemes site (http://www.fieldofschemes.com) talks about this issue quite a bit in the context of teams using the promise of mass transit improvements in exchange for taxpayer dollars for new facilities. The Red Bulls are a great example; they’ll be improving the Harrison, NJ PATH station, but the question is how many people actually use that station on non-game days, what is the overall economic benefit of a new station, etc.

        • Anne Whitacre Saturday, November 27, 2010 at 1:47 pm #

          this is a current discussion/issue in the LA area. One group wants to put a football stadium downtown, near the current convention center; another group wants to put the stadium way the heck out –in Industry, which is 15 miles east of the LA city limits. I’ve actually seen some discussion about building BOTH of them, and that idea is simply appalling to me.
          I know one of the funding/selling points for the Barclay’s Arena site (along with a bunch of other things) is the proliferation of mass transit to the location. But ultimately you’re right — its a whole lot of money and a whole lot of building materials for someplace that gets used 12 days a year.