Spring training is well underway and when it comes to spring training sustainability initiatives, the Arizona Diamondbacks are the team to beat. 

In 2011, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the spring training facility that they share with the Colorado Rockies and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian community, became the first LEED Gold Certified sports venue of its kind. Also the MLB facility built on Native American land, the facility was carefully constructed to honor the community and Indian culture, meet LEED Gold standards, and serve as a functional facility for fans and players.

“Hundreds of thousands of fans visit our venue annually, and Salt River Fields at Talking Stick will hopefully teach and inspire our visitors to make changes in their own day-to-day behaviors, at work and at home.”

-Graham Rossini
Vice President of Special Projects & Fan Experience, AZ Diamondbacks

We chatted with Graham Rossini, Vice President of Special Projects & Fan Experience for the Arizona Diamondbacks, about all things sustainability. What we discovered was the Diamondbacks’ deep-rooted commitment to the environment.

They take their position of leadership seriously and are using their reach to engage fans and stakeholders in sustainability conversations. When we asked Rossini about the decision-making process behind investing in sustainable initiatives, he responded: 

The executive leadership] believes in the vision, in the social responsibility that we have in our marketplace and to our fan base, that we can be a very powerful example for others to change behaviors...It's not going to be a dollars-and-cents decision on why we improve the air handlers or change out the lighting on the concourse. 

It's a situation where we...have over two million fans in our ballpark, tens of millions more watching games on TV, and the educational and the communication platform that we have because of that [allows us] to say, “Look at what we're doing in a facility as complex and difficult to operate as Chase Field. If we're doing it here, in your smaller office building or commercial center or even your home or day-to-day life, a lot of these changes should be a lot easier to implement.

Salt River Fields at Talking Stick

There are so many noteworthy features of Salt River Fields. From the locally-crafted roof designed around the angles of the sun to the salvaged and new vegetation around the venue that totals over 2,400 native plants, every detail of the field was well thought out with culture, community, and environment in mind. 

Salt River Fields - Diamondbacks and RockiesSalt River Fields - Diamondbacks and Rockies

In terms of water savings, the native plants help rainwater absorb back into the ground, while an on-site retention pond provides a natural habitat for local species. The facility also noted a 46% in potable water savings. The facility was also designed for maximum efficiency and energy savings, from the air-conditioning systems to the building materials used.

In 2014, the Diamondbacks partnered with the City of Phoenix and several other partners to host the first zero-waste spring training event at Salt River Fields. They removed all trash cans and instead, challenged fans to divert their food and solid waste from landfills by composting. As a result, over 3.5 tons of recyclable materials and over one ton of compost material were collected during the event.

Salt River Fields sustainability infographicSalt River Fields sustainability infographic

Beyond the Diamondbacks

The sustainability mindset extends far beyond spring training, and beyond the Diamondbacks, too. Baseball teams across the states are increasingly looking to build more sustainable facilities and community programs.

“The first thing we look at is: Is this the right thing to do? And if that's an easy to answer question, then we go into the financials. Not everything we do has an ROI.”

-Gary Glawe
Senior Director of Ballpark Systems, Minnesota Twins

The Padres, for example, recently completed a $15 million renovation of their 20-year-old spring training facility, earning a LEED Gold certification. And at their home stadium, Petco Park, they send all of their food waste to a local greenery and recycle their cooking oil, which is converted into biodiesel fuel for local school busses, among other things. In the team offices, the Padres have everything from motion sensor lights to a robust e-waste program to recycle old computers and electronics.

The Twins, on the other hand, were tracking for an 80%+ diversion rate in 2015 at Target Field. When we spoke with Gary Glawe, Senior Director of Ballpark Systems for the Twins, he emphasized the fact that not every initiative the Twins take on is tied to an ROI, but rather, whether or not it is the right thing to do. At Target Field, the Twins recycle roughly two million gallons of water each year that is collected, filtered, and re-used to clean the seats and lower bowl of the stadium. Plus, every utensil, plate, and serving dish used is compostable.

Finally, we are excited to be partnering with the Houston Astros this year at the Green Sports Alliance Summit. Together, we’ll provide every attendee a bag made from repurposed Astros banners. We’re also supporting this year’s community event by partnering with a local school to make necessary improvements. 

If you’re planning on attending this year’s Summit, let us know in the comments - we’d love to meet you!

Last spring, Kari and her family took a trip to Salt River Fields to catch spring training in action. Donning Diamondbacks and Rockies hats, they caught a game on the Salt River Fields' lawn. 

“As we build new facilities, we need to be mindful of the footprint and the long-term impact. Preservation and longevity is very important, [as well as] leaving a light footprint for future generations.”

-Graham Rossini


Your Turn:

What is your team doing to make spring training more sustainable? Let us know in the comments!

Images: 1, 2: Flickr/Dru Bloomfield