Sustainability in the Majors: 6 Stadiums With Green Roofs

Published On 24/09/2015 | By William Achnitz III | Green Buildings & Architecture, Rooftop Gardens & Green Roofs, Urban Agriculture

Sustainability in sports? No way.

The stereotype for sports fans is a beer-drinking, wing-eating, hooting-and-hollering macho he-man wearing their favorite player’s jersey and holding a foam finger.

But for that same exact guy to be a tree-hugging environmentalist? Not a chance.

Don’t be so sure though. Because as of August 2015, 142 teams, 151 venues, and 11 different sports leagues make up the Green Sports Alliance, a collaboration of collegiate and professional sports entities seeking to improve their environmental performance. In fact, every major sports league in North America including the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL), and Major League Baseball (MLB) is represented in the Green Sports Alliance.

The birth of this initiative – and general environmental awareness in sports as a consequence – can be traced back to the year 2004 when the Philadelphia Eagles sat down with Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, then senior scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council, to discuss how the team could become more environmentally friendly.

His “toilet paper story,” which Hershkowitz traditionally delivers to his MBA class at the Presidio Graduate School, details how the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles were procuring their toilet paper from regions inhabited by actual, real-life eagles. He ironically states, “The people at the Eagles’ stadium were wiping their butts with eagle habitat. That’s what we call a branding liability.”

Certainly wanting to avoid that liability, the Eagles ventured down a path that has since encouraged many other franchises to infuse sustainability into their ongoing day-to-day operations. Between recycling, composting, saving water, serving healthier food, and installing renewable energy technologies, there’s much sports franchises can do in order to become more sustainable in their activities.

One such activity is adding a green roof to where their team plays at home.

This leads us to the six stadiums with green roofs that have allowed sustainability to break into the big leagues:

Image via BayAreaSportsGuy.com.

Levi’s Stadium – San Francisco 49ers (NFL)

Levi’s Stadium, the home to the San Francisco 49ers and future host of Super Bowl 50, is the first NFL football stadium to achieve LEED Gold certification. The stadium features a dashboard that displays energy usage data in real time, enough solar panels to power all of their home games, and a green roof that spans 27,000 square feet.

The green roof located on top of the suite tower is accessible to fans and features 40 different species of local vegetation. It also adds to the aesthetics of the stadium which Paraag Marathe, President of the 49ers, points out that “every aerial shot will kind of showcase that.”

Image via Jules Antonio.

Image via Jules Antonio.

Barclays Center – Brooklyn Nets (NBA) & New York Islanders (NHL)

The Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York has been at the center of controversy for nearly a decade. Originally proposed in 2004, the construction of the venue has been delayed due to protests, lack of funding, and legal troubles involving local residents. As a result, a green roof, which was part of the original plans was shelved.

However, the project was reevaluated and the decision was made to move forward with a new green roof. There was just one roadblock – a rooftop that would not support the weight of 34,000 trays of sedum. To make it work, a new steel structure had to be built on top of the roof to accommodate the 135,000 square foot green roof, which is slated to be finished this October.

Despite the barriers, the green roof atop the Barclays Center will provide a number of benefits such as reducing the level of noise heard by local residents, providing a beautiful sight for those residents living in nearby high rises, and relieving the New York City sewer system by reducing the amount of runoff entering it. Another confirmed although unforeseen positive for this roof is the addition of new habitat to the area’s dwindling bee population.

Target Center – Minnesota Timberwolves (NBA) & Minnesota Lynx (WNBA)

In 2009, the Target Center, located in downtown Minneapolis, installed the first green roof on an arena in North America. Home to basketball’s Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx, the Target Center roof spans 2.5 acres and has captured nearly 1 million gallons of stormwater annually preventing its drainage into the Mississippi River.

According to a consultant analysis, the roof is also expected to last at least 40 years making it the more cost-effective option than a conventional roof. Keeping with the green theme, 98 percent of the old roof was recycled.

Ironically, the green roof is shaped like a leaf, which also resembles a basketball.

Citi Field – New York Mets (MLB)

In 2008, when the New York Mets were getting ready to move from Shea Stadium to Citi Field, the franchise entered into an agreement with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to become an environmental steward. Over 5 years, according to an EPA report, this agreement has resulted in a reduction of 46,517 metric tons of CO2e saving the franchise an estimated $3.8 million in operating costs.

It may be out in right field (literally), but Citi Field is also home to a 15,000 square foot green roof, which took only 3 days to install. The sedum was also grown on Long Island, so it had a very small carbon footprint getting to its final destination in Queens, New York.


Image via Rooflite.

Nationals Park – Washington Nationals (MLB)

Nationals Park, built in 2008, was the first major league stadium in the United States to become LEED-certified. Garnering a Silver rating, the home of the Washington Nationals is located on a brownfield site and has since revitalized the area leaving it in better shape than it was in the past.

The ballpark utilized locally sourced building materials in its construction, drought resistant plant materials that cut down on irrigation use, and highly reflective roof materials that minimize heat released to the environment.

Perhaps, the coolest feature of the stadium though is the green roof located above the concession stand and bathroom areas. The stadium also uses an advanced water filtration system that treats groundwater and stormwater runoff prior to its release to the environment, which is in very close proximity to the Anacostia River.


Image via Green City Growers.

Fenway Park – Boston Red Sox (MLB)

Home to the infamous Green Monster, Fenway Park became home to a rooftop garden this past Opening Day. Dubbed Fenway Farms, the garden will provide fresh herbs and vegetables to be used in the stadium’s concessions.

The rooftop garden will also provide a number of environmental benefits just as traditional green roofs do such as improved air quality and reduced energy usage. It will also serve as a tool for local schools to teach students about healthy eating and the environment.

Green Goes Full Circle

Green roofs can really hit it out of the park. Economic savings, environmental benefits, and opportunities to promote healthy lifestyles are all big positives that green roofs are bringing to sports. The message behind the green roof can be even bigger though. With millions of people around the world immersed in sports, there might be no better outlet for getting out the message of environmental stewardship and sustainable living.

Root for teams that support sustainability and if your team is not on the list, encourage them to join the Green Sports Alliance to get them moving on going green.

Featured Image: Fenway Park Green Roof. Image via Green City Growers.

About The Author

is a graduate from LIU Post with interests in sustainability, genealogy, business, politics, and making a difference in the world.