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Pro teams form Green Sports Alliance

The alliance--endorsed by six professional sports leagues--will focus on environmental sustainability at stadiums and training centers.

The newly formed Green Sports Alliance will promote eco-friendly practices for professional sports teams and their stadiums.

The alliance, announced this week, was created by team owner Paul Allen and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Allen, who co-founded Microsoft, owns the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers and co-owns the Seattle Sounders.

The Environmental Protection Agency and six pro sports leagues are endorsing the effort: Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Football League (NFL), the National Hockey League (NHL), the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), and Major League Soccer (MLS).

Six teams, including Allen's trio, and a handful of stadiums are founding members of the alliance.

If it succeeds, the alliance could lead to an overhaul of many of the nation's leading sports stadiums and training facilities. But its biggest impact could be its cultural influence.

"Sports matter. Outside of the family, the most influential role models in our society are athletes and entertainers. The most widely watched TV shows worldwide are sports shows. And professional sports leagues are non-partisan businesses, so their embrace of environmentalism helps us deflect ideological and politically inspired attacks on the environmental agenda," Allen Hershkowitz, senior scientist at NRDC, said this week on the group's Switchboard blog.

Just a half-dozen teams (all based in the Pacific Northwest) have committed to the effort so far. However, the NRDC is already an adviser to many leagues, teams, and even the NCAA Final Four Sustainability Committee. Several sports teams have also already been working on sustainability issues on their own.

The Philadelphia Eagles franchise, for example, began overhauling Lincoln Financial Field in 2010 and plans to be running on completely self-generated electricity by this September. Updates included 80 spiral small-wind turbines, 2,500 solar panels, and a 7.6-megawatt dual-fuel co-generation plant running on biodiesel fuel and natural gas.

The Minnesota Twins franchise included a rain water recycling system for its new stadium Target Field, as well as a tap water filtration system to discourage fans from using plastic water bottles.

Rose Garden Arena, home to the the Portland Trailblazers, was one of the first professional sports stadiums to earn LEED Gold status in 2010 for its sustainability systems.

Of course, in sports it's often all about the endorsements. That is where the Green Sports Alliance is poised to succeed.

The organization has been endorsed by the major sports league commissioners, as well as by Joe Abernathy, president of the Stadium Managers Association (SMA), who also happens to be the vice president of stadium operations at Busch Stadium, home to the St. Louis Cardinals.

A Green Sports Alliance conference is scheduled for August in Portland, Ore., to focus on best practices.