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By Jason Rittenberry

“greenness” in professional sports has been at the forefront of design and operation for many years, the motorsports industry has been a lap down in comparison to other sports and leagues.

     Only recently have racing organizations seemingly become increasingly aware that their activities don’t quite fit into the environmentally friendly category. Changes implemented by several sanctioning bodies over the last two years are proof of this development in the industry. This evidence can be seen by the use of ethanol fuel by the IndyCar Series and the controversial KERS systems employed by various Formula 1 teams at the highest level of racing. NASCAR, which leads the motorsports industry in revenue and fan base, has recently begun implementing a number of new green initiatives, such as the construction of two new buildings at their headquarters in Daytona and in Charlotte, which both qualify for LEED certification and increasing the efficiency of each track’s land conservation and recycling program.
     NASCAR’s corporate partners, many of which are sustainability leaders in their respective industries, are also becoming more involved. Goodyear, the official tire of NASCAR, shreds and recycles nearly all the used stock car tires. Safety Kleen Systems, Inc. provides oil recycling and re-refining services to more than 200 NASCAR-sanctioned races a year (amounting to around 170,000 gallons annually). Waste Management, one of NASCAR’s key environmental partners, is also setting benchmarks to help NASCAR’s greening efforts, providing exclusive waste and recycling services to all tracks.

     While the sanctioning bodies are doing their part toward the goal of sustainability, racetracks have traditionally represented themselves as unyielding foes with regards to the environment. Now it seems that some leaders in the industry are not only taking note of their eco-credentials, but are designing new facilities with the goal of being environmentally sustainable. Two such projects, one in the United States and one in Canada, are racing toward the finish line of becoming the world’s first carbon neutral and environmentally sustainable motorsports facility.

     Just north of metro Atlanta in Dawsonville, Georgia, Atlanta Motorsports Park (AMP) seeks to break the mold of motorsports developments. The ambitious plan for this world class facility is being created with the green objective of completely reducing its carbon footprint. This formula includes a sustainable building design, waterless urinals, tank-less water heaters, reclaimed water for the irrigation system, recycling of garbage and oil, the maximum efficiency HVAC available today, thermal resistant windows, supplementary insulation, the use of high-efficient lighting and florescent bulbs, and also promises to invest in alternative energy vehicles, such as those that run on natural gas.

     Numerous companies such as Falcon Waterfree, Sloan Valve (solar powered toilets and water faucets), Pirelli, and several others have partnered with AMP in an effort to create the first environmentally sustainable motorsports facility in the world. The types of sustainable products AMP is slated to use in development include plumbing systems, wind turbines, audio/video equipment, solar lighting, hardwood floors, and signs. This venue, which already has a significant membership base, is anticipated to be completed in 2010.

     While Atlanta Motorsports Park is leading the way in the United States by seeking to become the first environmentally sustainable motorsports facility in the world, their neighbors to the north in Ontario, Canada are racing them toward the finish line. The Canadian Motor Speedway (CMS) project was conceived with this same goal in mind and its business model is tailored on a global strategy to tap a growing international motorsports fan base.

     The 800+ acre CMS project has been endorsed by NASCAR superstar Jeff Gordon, who provides guidance and active participation on the CMS design and development strategy launching CMS as a “Jeff Gordon Signature Speedway.” Education and research are driving the business plan for CMS and they have established a unique partnership with McMaster University to create a R&D center of excellence for auto design, power train, composite materials and green fuels. In addition, they are working with local environmental and wildlife groups to recognize environmental best practices and set the global standard for responsible motorsports track design. The Canadian Motor Speedway is a proposed $150 million motorsports development situated on 820 acres of land in Fort Erie, Ontario Canada within 5 miles of the Canadian/US border and 11 miles from Niagara Falls. It will include a 1 mile banked oval race track, a 2.6 mile multiconfiguration road course, a research and development park, an industrial park, and commercial/retail space.

     While these two proposed projects are racing to become the world’s first environmentally sustainable motorsports facility and set the standard for us all to follow, racetracks and venues alike don’t need to sit on the sidelines with regards to the environment. At a minimum, venues should be doing their part to reduce the effects on the ecosystem. A venue can start with simple efforts such as implementing a recycling program, using environmentally friendly products, and planting trees to replace their carbon footprint.

Jason Rittenberry is President & CEO of Palm Beach International Raceway in Jupiter, Florida.


2004-2008 International Association of Assembly Managers
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