Augsburg - As well as having a top-flight football team, FC Augsburg also have definitively first-class environmental credentials. So much so, indeed, that Greenpeace recently attested the club's home SGL arena as the world's first carbon-neutral sports stadium.
A joint study by the DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga GmbH and consultancy firm RölfsPartner found that the 18 Bundesliga clubs are currently involved in 50 environmental projects all-told, with their second-tier counterparts working on a further 27.
League matchdays, for the most part, provide the litmus test for the sustainability of their efforts. As with all structures, the redevelopment of older football stadia in accordance with ecological principles is important. New buildings, however, offer a far more cost-effective opportunity for environmentally sound management. And thus it was with the state-of-the-art arena completed in Augsburg in 2009.
"This stadium is proof in itself of our commitment to the environment," said Andreas Rettig, FC Augsburg's then-sporting director and now COO of the DFL, at the stadium opening in July 2009; "Our very concrete aim is to sensitise our fans to the significance of environmental conservation."
Groundwater is pumped up from around the stadium and used as a source of heat production, saving 700 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Six wells were drilled for the purpose, down to a maximum depth of 40 metres. The roughly 3,600 kW/h of electricity required to heat and/or cool the stadium can thus be acquired in a carbon-neutral manner, using for example hydroelectric power, natural gas or rapeseed oil.
The groundwater plays an important ecological role in the process in its own right. For as long as is practicable, the building is cooled by the groundwater itself, prior to the heat pump being switched to cooling mode. Similarly, the underground pitch heating is sourced as far as can be from the selfsame groundwater before the heat pumps come into play. The roof, meanwhile, just as at Freiburg, Bremen and numerous other Bundesliga stadia, has its own integrated photovoltaic system.
The SGL arena operators are confident that, in the medium-term, these combined measures will also prove their worth in hard cash. To provide normal service to a capacity 30,660 crowd, for example, requires some 10 thousand litres of fuel oil. Heating the pitch alone uses up 1,200 kW/h of electricity - roughly equivalent to the annual consumption of 120 family homes. Another bonus for visitors, incidentally, is that they can tank up their e-bikes and scooters at a charging station right outside the ground.
What else? An estimated 100,000 fans travel by rail to watch the Bundesliga every weekend. Most clubs include the cost of rail travel in the ticket price as an added incentive for people to leave the car at home and FC Augsburg, of course, are no exception. Parking space for 2,500 cars and 70 buses is available - not excessive, but on the other hand the number 3 tram has been extended almost to the stadium gates. Using it, around 10 thousand fans can be transported to the game inside the space of an hour. And with one coming along ever two-and-a-half minutes after the match is over, you can hop on board and be in the Biergarten long before many a car-bound supporter still smouldering in a traffic jam.
Christoph Ruf / Angus Davison