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Home Field: The University of Minnesota’s Huntington Bank Stadium

Photo Courtesy Gopher Sports News

Records, as the saying goes, are made to be broken. The University of Minnesota, however, holds one record that will never be broken. Its TCF Bank Stadium, now known as Huntington Bank Stadium, was the first football stadium – college or pro – ever to be LEED-certified.

The University of Minnesota’s Golden Gophers played their first game there on September 9, 2009, and the stadium received its LEED Silver Certification just eight days later. LEED (the abbreviation for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design”) is awarded to buildings that possess a variety of sustainable elements while also reducing waste and energy consumption. Created by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED ranks as the most sought-after honor for a green building in the world. 

Photo Courtesy Gopher Sports News

“This designation,” University of Minnesota then-President Robert Bruininks said at the time of the announcement, “underscores the commitment of the Board of Regents and the leadership of the university to principles of sustainability, energy conservation, and responsible stewardship of our environment and our resources.” USGBC’s CEO Rick Fedrizzi concurred, stating that “the work of innovative building projects, such as TCF Bank Stadium, is a fundamental driving force in the green building movement.”

What so impressed the USGBC officials? Conceived with sustainability in mind, the stadium was built on a redeveloped brownfield site and located by a light rail transit line. Ninety percent of the steel used in its construction was recycled, along with being fabricated mainly in Minneapolis. More than 10 percent of all the building materials were regionally sourced as well as containing recycled content, while 98 percent of the construction waste wound up being recycled. 

 A reflective roof serves to lower the amount of energy needed to heat and cool the stadium and minimizes the heat island effect too. Additionally, south-facing windows allow for natural light to be used instead of electrical, and the energy-efficient lighting and elevators provide environmental benefits. 

The paints, carpeting, sealants, and adhesives are all low in volatile organic compounds, thereby reducing the risks of possible health problems. Compared to standard stadiums of the same size, the Huntington Bank Stadium creates 30 percent less indoor potable water use and 50 percent less use of the potable water for landscape irrigation. The low-flow plumbing system also cuts down on water being wasted.

A stormwater management system helps to direct rainwater into an extensive underground filtering system outside the stadium, where it is filtered and then drained into the Mississippi River. This process’ discharge rate basically equals the water conditions that existed before the area was populated by humans. 

The University of Minnesota also was honored locally in 2009 with the “Best Public Rain Garden” award. UM, as part of the stadium project, created a city block of bioswales (rain gardens) containing only native plants (such as wildflowers and grasses) that utilize less water. The water-efficient design elements, like having porous pavement, aid in capturing and directing water to the plants.  

Photo Courtesy Gopher Sports News

Sustainability was part of the conversation when UM began considering building a new football stadium in 2003,  although such considerations weren’t something new. The athletic department, for example, started using recycling bins back in 1998. The Regents of the University of Minnesota adopted a policy on sustainability in 2004 and UM has been expanding its green initiatives ever since. “This once-in-a-generation project presented a tremendous opportunity to advance sustainability within Gopher athletic facilities, with one of the largest construction projects in the history of the department, and to demonstrate the university’s commitment to sustainability,” UM sustainability coordinator Shane Stennes stated about the stadium. 

The stadium’s success led the university to expand its sustainability programs. In 2010 UM’s Energy Management Department teamed with the Athletic staff to do an energy study of the university’s eight athletic facilities. Among the improvements were electricity-saving measures done at the Williams Arena and airflow changes at the Ridder Arena and other buildings. Even the nearly brand-new stadium benefited from some technological upgrades. 

Overall, the energy conservation improvements to the athletic facilities resulted in an annual savings of over $400,000 ($131,000 for the stadium alone) and an annual reduction of 5,666,000 pounds of CO2 emissions. Additionally, many of the upgrades recouped its costs in under one year. The University continues to look to improve its sustainability practices, with reaching zero waste at the stadium being a target they are close to winning.