Monday, March 26, 2012

Red Sox Get Bigger Footprint: Sprawling Spring Park Skimps on Green

Given that Fenway Park is a green diamond, I was surprised to find on a recent trip to Florida that the new Boston Red Sox spring training facility, is the least-environmentally conscious new sports venue I've visited in recent years. And if they couldn't get JetBlue Park's green right, is it any wonder they also screwed up the height of its Green Monster?

"Environmentally-sustainable features will be incorporated throughout the facility and Complex, and the considerable landscaping will feature vegetation indigenous to the area," reads the JetBlue Park website. It's hard to tell exactly what that means, or whether more ambitious environmental efforts will be undertaken down the road. But how do you build a new ballpark with no solar panels in Florida, one of the states most threatened by global warming?

JetBlue Park's meager positive environmental measures are more than offset by its sprawling location. While its predecessor, City of Palms Stadium, was located in the center of the city, JetBlue Park is 10 miles outside central Fort Myers. That meant the vast majority of fans had to drive and most of them came came off the same exit of I-75, backing up traffic for miles. Even if the stadium was powered with 100% renewable energy, its carbon footprint would still be high because it asks 12,000 fans each game to drive so far outside the city.

And the fans who did take advantage of the ideal biking weather in Florida in March didn't get an ideal reception:
For the grand opening of jetBlue Park, 300 people biked to the new stadium. Those cyclists saved about 2-3 acres of parking. When asked, 76-percent of the bicyclists said they wanted to bike to future games. But jetBlue Park only has permanent bike racks for 50 bikes, with some temporary French barricades on standby.
Given the messed-up Monster, bad traffic and brutally long lines at concession stands, I didn't find the dearth of environmental amenities surprising. I've come to think of a venue's lack of green features as Van Halen viewed brown M&Ms - a warning sign that someone's just going through the motions. Poor environmental planning often goes hand in hand with a poorly thought-out overall customer experience.
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