When the Indians installed a large wind turbine at Progressive Field last year, it caught the attention of fans and a number of media outlets from around the world. Developed by Cleveland State University, the turbine sits on the roof of the stadium facing the intersection of Carnegie Ave. and E. 9th St. (or above the right field corner if you happen to be sitting inside of the stadium). This turbine was just one of a number of environmental initiatives the Indians have been instituting at the ballpark over the past five years. There are also solar panels and a greater emphasis on recycling with the goal to limit waste, save energy, and save money.
Brad Mohr, Assistant Director of Ballpark Operations with the Indians, came to our SABR meeting at Progressive Field on February 9 and talked about these environmental projects and what running a large ballpark entails. It’s a talk that Mohr is used to giving – he speaks all over the world about the Indians’ projects and will even be going to Sydney and Melbourne Australia next month to talk about the Indians and the environment. Mohr pointed out that these projects are putting the Indians on the map; especially when you consider that people on other continents are contacting representatives from the Indians in order to learn more about their programs. Mohr said that he’s still interviewed every so often about the ballpark’s solar panels, and they were installed in 2007. These recycling and environmental programs obviously get the team a lot of positive attention and media coverage.
Once the team got serious about recycling (which included installing special trash containers for recyclables) the amount of trash from Progressive Field dropped dramatically. As an example, the ballpark had 1,261.6 tons of trash in 2007. In 2012 they had just 408.1 tons of trash because of the recycling initiatives. It also meant that the team had to pay less for trash pickups – they went from 254 trash compactor pickups in 2007 to just 58 in 2012. With recycling, the team went from 138.9 tons of recycled material in 2008, to 248.4 tons in 2012. This recycling also includes materials left over after remodeling projects around the ballpark in addition to drink bottles. Some of it (like metals, for example) can be resold for a profit. So the team is not only paying less in trash removal, they’re actually making a small amount of money off of some of their recyclable materials. (In the past five years they’ve made between $2,500 and $12,000 selling this material).
The Indians installed 42 solar panels in 2007; you can see them on the upper deck of the stadium overlooking Carnegie Ave. The total project cost $180,000, and the Indians received about $80,000 in various grants toward the total cost; the team can expect the panels to pay for themselves in about 10-13 years from their installation. As for the wind turbine, it was designed by Dr. Majid Rashidi at Cleveland State University and was funded by a Department of Energy Grant. Installed of March 2012, there is a second turbine on the CSU campus; at the moment they are the only two of its kind. Almost the entire thing was built in northeast Ohio; just the fans were manufactured in Michigan. It weighs 1,800 lbs. and was raised into place from the ground in just four minutes. It’s not harmful to birds (even the mob of seagulls that tend to congregate around Progressive Field) and some birds have even roosted right under it.
The solar panels and the turbine don’t operate a specific item or items at Progressive Field; the energy created goes into a pool that helps the team to cut down on the energy they purchase. And you have to consider just how much energy is used by a ballpark of this size. It costs $4,000 just to turn the lights on; and that’s just to flip the switch, not counting the rest of the time they’re on. If the lights are on when there is no game, Mohr said that 99% of the time an outside group hosting an event at the ballpark paid for them to be on. (They’ll also put them on occasionally for events like Cavs playoff games in the past, or Browns night games, so the park shows up on national television).
Even though the energy created by the solar panels and the turbine is just a drop in the bucket, it still helps limit the amount of electricity the team must purchase from outside sources. More than anything, it creates a lot of attention and positive publicity around the team and Progressive Field. If people in Australia heard about these environmental initiatives and invited someone from the Indians to speak, you know that word has spread about what the team is doing. They’re not the only team that is partaking in environmentally friendly actions; the Seattle Mariners, for example, use compostable plates and cups at their concession stands. Much of what the Indians do is very visible to the public, and it also helps them to establish links in the community when working with people at Cleveland State and other area universities.
When most people come to the ballpark, they’re worried about the number of runs scored and whether or not the Indians won the game. It’s interesting to think about all of the things that are going on behind the scenes, both during and after the games. Dozens of custodians clean during the game, and pick everything up when it’s over. More and more of that waste is being recycled, which limits the amount of trash entering landfills and saves the team a great deal of money. Not necessarily enough money to sign a high priced free agent (it’s not like Michael Bourn is here because the Indians saved money via recycling) but being less wasteful is always a good thing, regardless of the economic benefits.