Oak View Group, NHL Seattle and Amazon announce unprecedented partnership to build a zero-carbon ‘Climate Pledge Arena’ and commit to carbon-neutral operations and events
By Bob Condor
The new arena under construction at Seattle Center has a name: Climate Pledge Arena, as announced by Oak View Group, NHL Seattle and Amazon Thursday in what promises to be nothing short of a transformational partnership for the city and Pacific Northwest, sports and entertainment industries and the planet.
The partnership was formed to make the Climate Pledge Arena the first zero-carbon arena in the world, powered exclusively by renewable energy including both on-site and offsite solar rather than the widespread standard use of natural gas in arenas and stadiums. The arena will run solely on electric for daily operations, eliminating all fossil fuels from the building and installing the first all-electric dehumidification systems in the National Hockey League.
“Our goal is to make sure every visit to this arena will be enjoyable and memorable, and sustainability is a large part of that,” said Tim Leiweke, CEO of Oak View Group and leader of the arena project. “It is not just about one arena, it’s the platform. We challenge music, facilities, concert tours and sports. It is our time to step up to face the challenge of our generation. We must take steps to build arenas and stadiums that front-and-center align with our zero-carbon mission statement.”
The brand-new arena under its 1962 World’s Fair landmark roof will mark several more breakthroughs for sports and entertainment venues:
• The first arena to ban single-use plastics and commit to functional zero waste. Fans will see only compost and recycling bins, no trash cans.
• The first arena to fully offset the carbon emissions of all events and related transportation by fans, sports teams and entertainers, achieving carbon-neutral operations and use.
• The lowest embodied carbon arena in the world; saving the landmark roof and the new arena’s subterranean footprint significantly reduces façade materials needed and the associated greenhouse gas emissions.
• The greenest ice in the world using rainwater, refrigerants with zero greenhouse gas emissions and electric Zambonis.
• The largest coordinated effort of fan engagement with climate issues of any NHL team.
The arena aims to earn a Zero Carbon Certification from the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), the world’s preeminent non-profit organization leading ecological “green” building practices and creating independent third-party certified standards for clean energy. The Arena would be the first live entertainment venue in the world to achieve this milestone.
“Having worked on some of the greenest projects in the world, this project stands above everything in its ability to reach a broader audience and address climate change and other global environmental issues,” said Jason F. McLennan, a noted Seattle-area architect and founder of the Living Building Challenge who is consulting with OVG and NHL Seattle on the arena project. “I knew the world would force more and more sports and entertainment venues to eliminate all carbon emissions. It was just a matter of when and where. I am delighted it is now and here in Seattle.”
With support from Amazon to secure additional renewable energy, the arena will be 100-percent powered by on-site solar panels and offsite solar farms. The largest set of event-related carbon emissions–travel by fans and artists to the venue, comprising 60 percent of the emissions¬–will be tracked and fully offset by the purchase of carbon offsets from The Nature Conservancy or similar programs.
“There are so many things I am proud about with this project,” said McLennan. “One of the proudest is this arena is really about climate and The Climate Pledge, not being named after a big corporation. It is named after a vision to move to a responsible place for the planet.”
As part of the agreement with Amazon, OVG and NHL Seattle will make annual contributions to Amazon’s The Climate Pledge initiative to motivate companies to reach zero-carbon emissions across all businesses by 2040 or 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement was signed by 195 nations in 2016. The three parties will form a climate advisory committee to encourage and monitor continuous improvement of best practices, while also organizing annual sustainability events at the new arena.
“Seattle is a place that values our incredible outdoor resources in the Pacific Northwest,” said Tod Leiweke, CEO of NHL Seattle. “Right here in our hometown, a company made a challenge, and it was The Climate Pledge. Could we by 2040 change the world and dramatically reduce its carbon footprint? We’re so proud to step forward with other leaders to say, yes we can.”
The Climate Pledge commitment will extend to all parts of the new arena’s offerings, including locally sourced food, beer and wine and zero waste for all events. The arena will become the first arena and Seattle the first team in the NHL to eliminate single-use plastics, phased out completely by 2024. The arena and team are working with partners to use only aluminum or biodegradable bottles by 2024 and all other single-use plastic will be banned from day one.
“There will be many opportunities for our fans to make a difference nightly,” said Tod Leiweke. “We will now look to involve our fans and the community to continue to help teach the world. Fans someday will demand more of these types of buildings. It is challenging and expensive but a small step out of the way relative to the issue of sustainability and global climate change.”