Events Council Blog

Sustainability and the Super Bowl

Feb 27, 2018

U.S. Bank Stadium, located in Minneapolis, was home to Super Bowl LII, which took place on Feb. 4, 2018. The indoor stadium opened in 2016 and is the home of the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL, and hosts a variety of other events.

Event Industry Council Sustainability Chair, Lindsay Arell caught up with the two members of U.S. Bank Stadium Operations team, Bradley Vogel, MS, sustainability coordinator, U.S. Bank Stadium and Curtis Schmillen, PE, director of operations, U.S. Bank Stadium, to learn more about their sustainability program and the impact of hosting Super Bowl LII.

Arell: What are the areas of focus for sustainability within your organization?

Vogel and Schmillen: At U.S. Bank Stadium, we focus on five main areas of sustainability: energy (electrical, gas, chilled water, steam, etc.) utilization, water utilization, waste diversion, education, and transportation.

Arell: What was the motivation for establishing your program?

Vogel and Schmillen: In the Minneapolis/St. Paul market, there is a large drive from state and local governmental agencies to engage in sustainable operations. As a result, implementing sustainable practices was a key consideration in the design, construction, and operation planning phases for the stadium. There is also a business case to be made for being a sustainable venue.

Arell: How long have initiatives been in place?

Vogel and Schmillen: Since the stadium opened in July 2016, sustainable energy and water management initiatives have been paramount and a major focus of daily operations. On the waste side, the drive to become a zero-waste facility started in January 2017, after the stadium had a chance to get a full Vikings’ season under its belt. With year two complete, we are aiming to hit the transportation piece more heavily, as well as the education program.

Arell: How do you engage fans in your programs?

Vogel and Schmillen: We are just starting our fan/guest engagement program. Our goal was to get our back of house operations tuned in and running efficiently before we made a large push to engage guests. We are excited to roll out our program this summer and be ready to welcome Vikings’ fans with our new messaging this fall.

Arell: How do you engage employees?

Vogel and Schmillen: We have implemented the use of “Sustainability Champion” pins to give to staff who exhibit sustainable behaviors. There is a culture of earning pins for service-related duties, and the staff is always competing to earn more and more. In the departments that have a direct hand in the sustainability efforts, Cleaning Services for example, we set and track goals and celebrate the building’s successes together to keep staff engaged in the outcome.

Arell: Did you ramp up efforts for the Superbowl? Or try a new approach?

Vogel and Schmillen: The Super Bowl played a role in expediting the waste diversion program and helped set a timetable for specific tasks, but we have been focused on sustainability since we moved into the building. The nice thing about the Super Bowl is the platform and the reach associated with this event. The NFL partnered with Pepsico and its ‘Rush to Recycle’ program. The resources Pepsico brought to the table made a huge impact in the success of the event and the overall waste diversion numbers we were able to hit.

Arell: What are the biggest challenges?

Vogel and Schmillen: Because we have so many part time employees who are only in the building for 15-20 days out of the year, it is difficult getting them up to speed on the sustainability initiatives. While this presents a challenge, it emphasizes the importance of creating a sustainable culture, where sustainable behaviors are rewarded, and staff hold each other accountable to do the right thing. Fortunately, there is a large sustainability culture in the Twin Cities sport venues, so a lot of the staff expect to see sustainable operations at the stadium.

Arell: What advice would you offer to a venue looking to start a program?

Vogel and Schmillen: For any stadium looking to start a robust sustainability program, it is vital to obtain buy-in from all stakeholders, from the building ownership to key representatives from each partner in the building.  Starting a sustainability committee with representation from each partner is a good way to create accountability and a plan of action. Start small to gain momentum and do not let perfection get in the way of progress. Every little step forward is important.

Arell: What are your goals for the future?

Vogel and Schmillen: Moving forward, we aim to increase the scope of the waste diversion program to all events regardless of size. While we have high single event diversion rates, we want the day to day operations to be ran in an equally sustainable manner.