The defending National Football League champions may be struggling on the gridiron this season, but the Baltimore Ravens have come out on top in another fierce competition - to make their "house" the greenest in pro football.
M&T Bank Stadium has earned a "Gold" rating from the U.S. Green Building Council, the highest rank the Washington-based nonprofit group has awarded to any existing NFL stadium to date under its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards.
In capturing the gold, M&T's stadium eclipsed Chicago's Soldier Field, which became the first NFL venue to get LEED certification for an existing building two years ago. And it edged out Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Eagles, which on Sunday received LEED Silver certification, also for greening an existing stadium.
Gov. Martin O'Malley is expected to join Ravens team executives and officials with the Maryland Stadium Authority, which built and operates the stadium, at a press conference Tuesday to celebrate M&T's achievement.
There are just 18 other professional sports venues of all types nationwide that have earned LEED certification, according to the Green Sports Alliance, a group dedicated to making sports more environmentally friendly. Washington's Nationals Park, for instance, earned LEED Silver when it was built in 2008.
It's a different sort of challenge to green an existing stadium like M&T, which first opened in September 1998. But the stadium authority and Ravens have been working for several years now to improve energy efficiency, boost recycling and reduce water use.
In a B'more Green post two years ago, Jeff Provenzano, director of football facilities for the stadium authority, explained how they worked to reduce the mountains of trash generated by 71,000 football fans and pare down a staggering electric bill. On the latter, they achieved big savings through un-sexy things like weatherstripping and turning off every one of the 400 refrigerators in the stadium between games. The stadium also replaced its scoreboard with more efficient, cooler lighting.
By last year, Provenzano told Green Building & Design Magazine, the stadium was recycling 13 to 14 tons of garbage per game. M&T also slashed its water use by installing waterless urinals and cutting back on irrigation of the field. And earlier this year, in a bid to improve air quality, smoking was banned at the stadium.
Like everything else about professional sports, M&T will have to scramble to stay ahead in the green stadium race, as venues across the country vie for top honors. The team the Ravens beat in the Super Bowl, the San Francisco 49ers, are angling for a LEED Gold rating as well on the new stadium now under construction for them in Santa Clara, which will boast solar panels and a 27,000-square-foot green roof, among other things.