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Amazon drives green agenda with Climate Pledge Arena deal

US e-commerce giant Amazon has acquired naming rights to the revamped KeyArena in Seattle and will use the contract at the new home of the city’s NHL ice hockey expansion franchise to promote its climate change message.

Instead of bearing Amazon’s name, the arena will be known as the Climate Pledge Arena. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it is reported it will run for at least a decade. Amazon and Global Optimism last year announced The Climate Pledge, which calls on signatories to be net zero carbon across their businesses by 2040 – a decade ahead of the Paris Agreement.

With significant investment from Amazon and arena developer Oak View Group (OVG), the venue is expected to be the first net zero carbon certified arena in the world and set a new sustainability bar for the sports and events industry.

The online shopping giant has been seeking to improve its green credentials after employees criticised it for not doing enough to address climate change. Amazon this week said it would spend $2bn (£1.61bn/€1.78bn) to fund companies or technologies that could help fight climate change.

The Associated Press news agency reports that Amazon’s carbon footprint grew by 15% last year, while its emissions from fossil fuels rose by 18%. Amazon, however, claimed emissions for every item it sold fell by 5%.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO, said in a statement: “We’ve secured naming rights to the historic arena previously known as KeyArena. Instead of naming it after Amazon, we’re calling it Climate Pledge Arena as a regular reminder of the importance of fighting climate change. We look forward to working together with Oak View Group, a new Climate Pledge signatory, and NHL Seattle to inspire global climate action.”

It was reported last week that the opening of the revamped KeyArena is set to be pushed back to the late summer of 2021 amid delays caused by COVID-19. While work on the $930m, privately-funded project has continued during the global pandemic, NHL Seattle CEO Tod Leiweke said that delays caused by acquiring building materials and working around enhanced COVID-19 safety measures means the targeted opening date of June 1 next year is now more likely to be August to mid-September.

Highlights of the Amazon arena partnership include that the venue will be the first arena in the world targeting net Zero Carbon certification by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI). The arena will have all-electric operations and be powered with 100% renewable electricity, both from on-site solar panels and off-site renewable energy. Events at the arena will be made fully net zero carbon through investments in forestry projects with organisations such as The Nature Conservancy that will sequester any remaining carbon emissions from arena operations.

Carbon emissions and sustainability performance of the arena and all events will be measured and publicly disclosed. All operations and events at the arena will be ‘zero waste’ with durable and compostable containers. A minimum of 95% of all arena waste will be diverted from landfills on a weight basis.

The arena will use reclaimed rainwater in the ice system to create the “greenest ice in the NHL”. The original 44-million-pound roof from the arena will be reused in construction to significantly reduce the embodied carbon of the building.

At least 75% of the arena’s food program will be sourced locally on a seasonal basis to support regional farmers and producers, and all viable unused food from events will be donated to local community food programs. Tickets for NHL Seattle and WNBA women’s basketball team Seattle Storm will double as free public transit passes to promote use of public transportation for attendees, including on the refurbished Seattle Monorail.

“There is no question that the state of our planet is a critical issue for all of us,” said Tim Leiweke, CEO of Oak View Group. “We have a responsibility to future generations to try to leave them with a better world. We love that Amazon is using its naming rights for a cause we care deeply about—this partnership is a visionary step for the facilities business and sport and music industries. Our goal is to be the most progressive, responsible, and sustainable venue in the world. It is not just about one arena—it’s a platform for us to step up and heal our planet.

“Our goal is to make sure every visit to this arena will be enjoyable and memorable, and sustainability is a large part of that. It is not just about one arena, it’s the platform. We challenge music, facilities, concert tours and sports. It is our time to step up to face the challenge of our generation. We must take steps to build arenas and stadiums that front-and-centre align with our zero-carbon mission statement.”

The 18,100-seat multi-purpose venue is expected to host 200 events each year, including NHL Seattle, Seattle Storm, live music and entertainment from the world’s biggest stars, and City of Seattle community events.

Speaking to the Seattle Times newspaper, Tim Leiweke added that it wasn’t until February that he had architectural firm Populous, project manager CAA Icon and general contractor Mortenson amend arena plans with the green vision in mind.

He said the added work amounted to “tens of millions of dollars” after negotiations involving “more than a thousand people” to ensure the zero-carbon goal was attainable.

Images: Amazon