The 11 ‘Greenest’ College Basketball Arenas in America

College Park Center

When it comes to ecologically friendly basketball arenas, the University of Texas at Arlington stands out as a maverick.

In 2012, the university opened the $78 million College Park Center, where the men’s basketball, women’s basketball and women’s volleyball teams compete. In addition, the 218,000-square-foot arena hosts the WNBA’s Dallas Wings.

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Dallas, TX-based architecture firm HKS designed College Park Center with the environment in mind. The 7,000-seat arena boasts numerous “green” features, including energy-efficient glazed windows, a roof that reduces the building’s solar load, a low-use water system and native landscaping.

“UT Arlington’s College Park Center has the feel of a much larger professional venue,” says David Skaggs, vice president of the sports and entertainment division at HKS. “This facility is … right up there with [Dallas’] American Airlines Center in terms of its quality, the kinds of technology offered, and the fan and athlete experience.”

College Park Center

Photo: University of Texas at Arlington

Going for Gold

Thanks to its abundant eco-friendly components, College Park Center picked up a LEED gold ranking from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2012. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design. The gold ranking is the second highest notch in LEED’s four-tier system for rating green buildings, a system that ranges from basic certification at the lowest level to platinum certification at the highest level.

According to HKS, College Park Center “exemplifies what can be accomplished when sustainable building practices and environmentally sound landscape design are combined.”

We concur. That’s why College Park Center earns our kudos as the greenest college basketball arena in the U.S. In our rankings, we gave priority to newly constructed arenas that received LEED gold status, followed by renovated arenas with LEED gold status and renovated arenas with LEED silver status. The LEED scores for the projects, if available, came from the U.S. Green Building Council and the universities.

Led by the University of Texas at Arlington, here is LawnStarter’s list of the country’s 11 “Greenest” College Basketball Arenas in America.

1. University of Texas at Arlington
College Park Center
Arlington, TX


Photo: University of Texas at Arlington

LEED certification: Gold (new construction)
Year opened: 2012
Noteworthy: 42 percent of the building material came from within 500 miles of the campus, over 85 percent of construction waste was recycled, and energy use is being decreased by 15 percent through innovations such as adding high-efficiency window glazing, reducing power density of interior lighting and installing high-efficiency HVAC systems.
What they say: “The center emphasizes energy efficiency, natural light and thoughtful landscaping in a new venue that defines the university’s eastern edge,” says Ralph Hawkins, chairman and CEO of HKS, which designed College Park Center. “The project is proof positive that architecture and sustainability can coexist in a premiere venue.”

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2. Towson University
SECU Arena
Towson, MD


Photo: Towson University

LEED certification: Gold (new construction)
Year opened: 2013
Noteworthy: Energy-efficient mechanical systems were installed, low-emissions paint and carpeting were added, and recycled building materials were used.
What they say: “We’re proud to have constructed a building that is highly functional, aesthetically pleasing and 20 percent more efficient than comparable facilities,” says Joe Oster, Towson’s vice president for administration and finance. “The achievement is indicative of the university’s ongoing commitment to sustainable design and construction.”

3. University of Oregon
Matthew Knight Arena
Eugene, OR

Matthew Knight Arena

Photo: JMI Sports

LEED certification: Gold (new construction)
Year opened: 2011
Noteworthy: Water use for landscaping is being reduced by 50 percent, water use for the building as a whole is being cut by 30 percent, and indoor air quality was enhanced with low-emitting construction materials like carpet, paint, wood and sealants.
What they say: “LEED certification for the Matthew Knight Arena aligns perfectly with the university’s commitment to maintain the current carbon footprint of our 295-acre campus while growing and expanding our facilities,” says Chris Ramey, associate vice president of campus planning and real estate at Oregon.

4. University of Michigan
Crisler Center
Ann Arbor, MI

Crisler Center

Photo: University of Michigan

LEED certification: Gold (renovation)
Year opened: 2012
Noteworthy: Energy- and water-efficient features were added throughout, daylight rather than artificial light was emphasized, and regional construction materials were given priority.
What they say: “One of our strategic initiatives in the Michigan Athletic Department game plan is to ‘Think Planet Blue and Engage in Sustainable Practices.’ This is another example of how we are doing that,” says Rob Rademacher, the university’s executive senior associate athletic director. “We are proud of the work that the design and construction team put into Crisler Center to make it sustainable and limit its impact on the environment.”

5. George Washington University
Charles E. Smith Center
Washington, DC

Charles E. Smith Center

Photo: George Washington University

LEED certification: Gold (renovation)
Year opened: 2011
Noteworthy: Energy-efficient windows and an Energy Star roof were installed, low-flow plumbing fixtures were added, and more than 90 percent of demolition and construction waste was recycled.
What they say: “As a team, we really have created a dynamic new space for the GW community, and importantly, one that includes numerous sustainable features,” says Alicia Knight, the university’s senior associate vice president for operations.

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6. University of Toledo
John F. Savage Arena
Toledo, OH



LEED certification: Gold (renovation)
Year opened: 2008
Noteworthy: Electric heating elements under the old court were replaced with a hot water system, air handlers that bring fresh air from outside were retrofitted with sensors that open them only as needed, and much of the demolition and construction waste recycled.
What they say: “The university has a commitment for all of our building projects to be as energy-efficient as possible, and to see that effort rewarded for Savage Arena with a LEED gold certification is certainly a point of Rocket pride,” says Michael Green, director of energy management at Toledo.

7. University of Iowa
Carver-Hawkeye Arena
Iowa City, IA

Iowa basketball arena

Photo: University of Iowa

LEED certification: Gold (renovation)
Year opened: 2011
Noteworthy: Water-efficient landscaping was installed without a new irrigation system installed, water use is being reduced by more than 40 percent, and over 90 percent of the original structure was incorporated into the renovation.
What they say: “The department of athletics is very proud to have Carver-Hawkeye Arena reach LEED gold status,” an Iowa athletics official said in 2013. “It is very important that the athletics program serve as a leader and support the sustainability principles outlined by the greater university.”

Pauley Pavilion
Los Angeles, CA

Pauley Pavilion

Photo: UCLA

LEED certification: Gold (renovation)
Year opened: 2012
Noteworthy: The new lighting system “harvests” daylight and adjusts for occupancy levels, the natural ventilation setup serves cooling needs for much of the year, and the court is made from environmentally friendly maple wood.
What they say: “Pauley is a building with significant history and serves a huge population right at the center of campus, so its [LEED] certification has had a lot of impact,” says Todd Lynch, principal project planner for UCLA’s capital programs.

9. University of Notre Dame
Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center
South Bend, IN

Notre Dame basketball arena

Photo: Barton Marlow

LEED certification: Gold (renovation)
Year opened: 2009
Noteworthy: Over 20 percent of construction materials were made regionally, 1,246 tons of construction waste were kept from going to landfills, and low-flow toilets, urinals, faucets and shower heads were installed.
What they say: “As part of the university’s goal to ensure that its Catholic character informs all its endeavors, we seek to minimize the environmental impact of new campus buildings and the act of constructing them,” says Doug Marsh, head of facilities design and operations at Notre Dame.

10. Southern Methodist University
Moody Coliseum
Dallas, TX

Moody Coliseum

Photo: Southern Methodist University

LEED certification: Silver (renovation)
Year opened: 2014
Noteworthy: Highly efficient HVAC systems were installed, drought-resistant landscaping was added, and the center was connected to the campus’ water-recycling system.
What they say: “In order to maintain good indoor air quality after occupancy, a green cleaning plan is in place,” SMU says. “This plan requires all cleaning products and procedures meet various sustainability criteria aimed at protecting the building occupants and custodial staff from interacting with harmful chemicals.”

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11. University of South Florida
USF Sun Dome
Tampa, FL

USF Sun Dome

Photo: Irwin Seating

LEED certification: Silver (renovation)
Year opened: 2012
Noteworthy: Ninety-one percent of construction debris from the Sun Dome was recycled, new HVAC units are reducing energy costs by 18 percent, and internal water use is being cut by 30 percent.
What they say: “With USF’s colors being green and gold, there is no better thing to do but keep it [the dome] green,” the university says.

Top photo: Hunt Construction Group

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John Egan

John Egan is the former editor in chief of Now, he is a freelance writer extraordinaire. He lives in Austin, Texas.