Houston has been 'transformative' with eco-friendly sports arenas, exec says:

Author: Cara Smith

An Oregon-based international nonprofit wants to see a little more green in the world of sports.

That's not a reference to money, though — the Green Sports Alliance is dedicated to promoting environmentally conscious practices in athletic stadiums around the world. The alliance just spent a week in the Bayou City for its annual summit, where it awards noteworthy stadiums in each major sports league for being a green innovator. Among MLS stadiums, Houston's BBVA Compass Stadium nabbed top honors.

The alliance works with nearly every major sports league in the U.S., including the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and Major League Soccer.

The conference brought between 700 to 800 people to Houston and had around 500 to 600 hotel nights booked for the conference, said Justin Zeulner, Green Sports Alliance co-founder and executive director. While they were here, Green Sports Alliance members dined at Underbelly, Reef and The Grove; most attendees stayed at the Hilton Americas or the Westin Houston Downtown, he said. It was the four-year-old conference's first time in the Bayou City, but it won't be its last, Zeulner said.

This is the Green Sports Alliance's first time in Houston. What's your experience been like? Our experience in Houston has been extraordinary. And, if I may, Houston is setting the state and exemplifying what the state of Texas has been all about. We’re feeling like we're being welcomed to Texas.

How does Houston stack up nationally in terms of its green stadium offerings?Houston, in my opinion, (has been) transformative in the last decade. University of Houston and Rice have both exemplified that, even at the collegiate level. Whether it's student athletics or the facilities themselves, they've done an incredible job. … BBVA (Compass Stadium) has embraced this at a level that others are trying to get to. BBVA, for a soccer facility, has done more than (most) in Major League Soccer.

What makes a green stadium "green"? So, you've got the core competencies of a green building, (such as) energy efficiencies, water conservation and greener cleaning … and transportation, transit, biking, waste strategies (and) food donation strategies. Where this really gets interesting, and what sports provides that no other industries do, is the amplification of what they’re doing, and the inspiration that brings to a local region.

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