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Purple, Gold . . . and Green

April 02, 2012 By Kate Keleher, Macalester College

Over the next several weeks Minnesota 2020 will run a series of columns focusing on environmental policy issues. This is part of our continuing collaboration with Macalester College's Environmental Studies Department and its students.

We’ve heard the message of environmentalism ring loudly from protesters’ megaphones, college classrooms and drum circles. Yet despite a dramatic increase of environmental awareness in recent years, it remains absent from many mainstream American debates.

Take this one: Relocation of the Minnesota Vikings stadium. For over ten years, the Vikings have advocated for a new stadium to replace the 30-year-old Metrodome that no longer meets the team's needs. The Vikings website already emphasizes that a new stadium would provide benefits to the larger community including “much-needed employment and economic activity at a critical time,” and “provisions for women, minority-owned, and small business participation.” However, it fails to address any environmental benefits that the stadium could provide.

This is a terrible loss for the general public. A new Vikings Stadium will prove to be an environmental burden unless decision-makers account for concerns about sustainability. If taxpayers contribute $600-700 million dollars of the billion dollar construction cost, as current estimates suggest, then they should not have to foot the external costs of waste, pollution, and other forms of environmental degradation. Constituents of the decision-making process for the new stadium must consider two key environmental factors – the stadium’s location and design - as they proceed with deliberations, or face the consequences.

First, the stadium’s location will have profound environmental implications. The new site will undoubtedly undergo radical transformations, which could degrade the area’s biodiversity, storm water systems, and soil quality. However, thoughtful relocation could work to mitigate the stadium’s environmental burden.

  • The proposed Arden Hills site raises several environmental concerns: In developing 430 acres of land, including wildlife reserves and parks, this proposed site would likely generate significant air and water quality risks.
  • The farmer’s market site, conveniently located along public transportation lines, could reduce automobile dependency for sporting events, thus decreasing fuel consumption and green house gas emissions. Though the farmer’s market site constitutes, in my opinion, the ideal location, I hesitate to rule the existing location out of the line-up.
  • Rebuilding on the existing site promotes the creative reuse of space, which is itself an environmentally intelligent decision. In critically evaluating the environmental pros and cons of each proposed stadium site, one acknowledges the fact that these times of transformation provide the rare opportunity to rearrange the city in a more intelligent, environmentally cognizant manner.

Next, the design and construction of the stadium itself have environmental implications. An example of a project done well; The Minneapolis Convention Center demonstrates several exciting ways in which the thoughtful design and construction of large spaces can both alleviate their environmental burden and benefit communities. The MCC has 2,613 solar panels which generate 750,000 kWh a year, enough to power 85 houses annually and offset 539 metric tons of CO2. In adopting this kind of sustainable design, the stadium could decrease its own environmental burden. It could also begin to address the concerns about the stadium’s cost by introducing more resource efficient features such as water-saving taps and LED light bulbs.

Recognizing the environmental opportunities of the stadium’s location and the design sends the powerful message that American traditions and environmental cognizance are not mutually exclusive. In striving to increase the sustainability of sporting facilities, cities foster discussions about sustainability in new fields and promote the widespread adaptation of environmentally conscious decision-making. Stadiums in cities such as Philadelphia and Washington D.C. are already increasing their environmental sustainability. Isn’t it time Minneapolis resumed its place as a leader on these important issues?

Tax-payers, your money will be invested in this new stadium. Raise your voice to make sure it’s being spent the right way – on a stadium whose location and design ensures that football can be enjoyed in a healthy environment for generations to come! 

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  • Dean says:

    April 3, 2012 at 8:15 am

    The existing stadium has one environmental sound design feature - a large part of the structure is built below ground level.  Nothing else compares with the importance of this and hopefully the new stadium will follow suit.