NBA Going Green for All-Star Events

by Jahna Berry - Feb. 9, 2009 12:00 AM

The Arizona Republic

Phoenix may be hosting the greenest NBA All-Star Game to date.

For the first time, the NBA is buying green-energy credits to offset the power that it expects to use at US Airways Center and at the Phoenix Convention Center while All-Star fans and organizers are in town.

The league makes an effort to be more eco-friendly each year, but officials say the credits and other new strategies will make the Phoenix event unique. Among other things, the NBA plans to ratchet up recycling, to use Suns stars for a green public-service announcement and to use post-consumer products to build a playground as a community-service project on Friday.

The news comes as many major-league sports teams take steps to get greener. They range from the Washington Nationals' $611 million baseball stadium, which has been certified by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, to the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles, which reimburses employees who use alternative energy at home.

"We recognize that a lot of the efforts around our games and the transportation and the use of arenas . . . (that) there is a lot of energy use involved in that," said Kathy Behrens, a senior vice president of the NBA, which organizes several days of All-Star festivities before the game, which will be played Sunday. Behrens would not say how much the NBA paid for the energy credits, which will be used to pay for an unspecified project.

An official from Arizona Public Service, which worked on the project with the league, said that the credits would cover the equivalent of 1,500 megawatt hours of power.

The average Arizona home uses 15 megawatt hours a year.

Sports teams could be extremely influential environmental figures, sports-marketing expert Ray Artigue says.

"They can use the amazing interest in sports as an educational platform to change people's habits," said Artigue, executive director of the MBA sports-business program at Arizona State University's W.P. Carey School of Business.

The Suns also have beefed up their environmental efforts, says Ralph Marchetta, US Airways Center's general manager. The center's garage has energy-efficient lights and will get solar panels in July.

In December, the team began recycling plastic bottles and aluminum cans discarded in the center's public areas.

Buying green energy for the All-Star Game was easier said than done.

Barbara Lockwood, manager for renewable energy at APS, says regular customers can simply ask APS to use green power for their homes, but the NBA could not because it's a third party.

Instead, the league asked APS to purchase the credits through a broker. The credits will help fund a yet-to-be-determined green-energy project, Lockwood said.

The NBA hopes to repeat the Phoenix green-power effort when the All-Star Game is in Dallas in 2010, said Behrens, the league official.