Believe it or not, the Minnesota Wild are already gearing up for the 2015-2016 season. But this isn’t the only reason why we’re excited to be talking about our hometown hockey team: In our latest interview, we learned just how committed the Wild are to creating a culture of sustainability with their fans, employees, and stakeholders.
We were lucky enough to chat with Kate Setley, Director of Event Management & RiverCentre Marketing for three staple buildings in St. Paul: the RiverCentre, Xcel Energy Center, and Roy Wilkins Auditorium. Setley explained that for the Wild, sustainability is a team and community effort that takes time, commitment, and a little trial-and-error.
Here are highlights from the interview:
You operate several venues that host more than just Wild hockey fans. How do you approach educating a wide range of attendees about your sustainability efforts?
Kate Setley: The education piece is something we looked at it when we started [our sustainability programs] about six years ago. We first engaged our staff because...we wanted to set them up for success, so they needed to have a real opinion on how things were going to work. From there...it moved right into education of the fan, or the conference attendee, or the hockey fan, and they're all in very different mindsets when they come in.
Did you find it challenging to get everyone on board with your sustainability initiatives?
KS: [Our sustainability efforts are] such a team effort. It came from the ground up...and we didn't just say overnight that we're going to be sustainable...it was a gradual process. We did a lot of trial and error.
Operating sustainably is no longer something we have to spend time convincing our staff to do. Now, it's just part of our day to day culture, just like making ice and setting up events. We do things sustainably, it's just how it is here now.
We’re noticing with sports teams that sustainability is not just about the ROI. Would you say that's true for the Wild?
KS: Absolutely. In our business, we bring people together and our hope is that when they all leave, they walk away leaving as little impact as possible. And also feeling a little inspired knowing about their efforts.
The Minnesota Wild...have always, from day one, been a very community minded, community connected organization, and sustainability has allowed us to further connect to our fans in a different way. In Minnesota particularly…there is such a connection to the outdoors, and to our environment, to the lakes, and rivers and national parks…[our fans] already care about the environment.
What else are you doing to engage fans and employees in sustainability conversations?
KS: The NHL has a partnership with an organization called Change The Course and we held four Change The Course games where our goal was to educate the public about the waterways in our country that are drying up...and inspire them to take action. So they could simply text in to...say, “This is how I'm going to save water.” For every text that we received, 1,000 gallons of water would be restored to a river in need around the country. We were also able to engage one of our corporate sponsors. They provided rain barrels that they made out of recycled syrup drums and we gave those away as prizes for people that engaged in the promotion.
[We also] partnered with Hamline University’s storm drain goalie, [where fans could] take photos of the things they would make sure to protect from going down their storm drains. It was a nice tie-in with the Change the Course [initiative].
And in June, our Minnesota Wild staff worked with the DNR’s Adopt-a-River program and we cleaned up a portion of the Mississippi river bank. We estimated to have collected over 2,100 pounds of waste. We pulled out old tires, refrigerators, a hot water heater, all kinds of metal rebar.
Can you tell us about your program to recycle youth hockey gear?
KS: We have a great partner with the Let's Play Hockey organization. We work with them to host a used hockey equipment drive...it usually it ends up bringing in over around 3,000 pieces of gear that are redistributed to players. People can come in and...pick through [the equipment] and take the gear for no charge. [Not only are we] keeping the game going, [but we’re] being sustainable at the same time.
You’re proving that you don’t need to be an expert in sustainability to make a difference. What advice do you have for those putting on an event, but don’t know where to start with greening efforts?
KS: Think creatively about what your event is going to use a lot of and figure out how you can lessen it. You don't have to...make your event 100% sustainable. Just start; just do one little thing and the next year do more.
I would say...that almost every event comes back to us and says, “We had no idea how much people actually cared about this.”
Can you tell us more about the renewable energy sources the Wild use during their games?
KS: [Xcel Energy] always had a Windsource program where homeowners could...offset their electrical use by purchasing Windsource credits. And...we said, ‘Why can't we apply this to events?’ That is where the Windsource for Events program began and now we are a top five Windsource purchaser.
All of our Minnesota Wild games have been covered by Windsource since 2011 and we'll continue to do that. It's really affordable to do and it's a great way for anyone doing an event to be able to incorporate sustainability in a very affordable way.
What is one thing you're excited about for the upcoming year?
KS: I think a next phase for us and for a lot of venues around the nation is going to be lighting. We've done an enormous amount of lighting upgrades already, but there has been a lot of conversation out in the marketplace about converting lighting in the area, in any venue for that matter, to LED.
Once we pull the trigger, it'll reduce energy in our arena bowl by about 60%. It...also gives you the ability to manage the lighting better for events and create better experiences...I'm really excited to see what will transpire with what's happening in the lighting world.
A huge thanks to Kate and the Minnesota Wild for taking the time to speak with us! You can learn more about the Wild's commitment to sustainability in the video below. And be sure to catch the Wild at the Xcel Energy Center on Mon, Sept 21 as they take on the Buffalo Sabres in their first preseason game!