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Environmental impacts of empty stadiums during COVID (2020)

A section of this paper examines the environmental impact of empty stadium competition and bubble competition during the COVID-19 pandemic from a resource utilization and byproduct creation perspective. The small pause in professional sport competition and activity should give the natural environment a chance to recuperate after decades of constant activity has worn down its natural defenses. However, while the resumption of competition in empty stadiums and bubble competitions does require resources and create byproducts that will impact the natural environment, it is estimated that these impacts should be significantly smaller than what would be expected during a normal period of activity. A lack of spectator attendance should limit the risks of climate-related interference in sport events where safety of fans is a concern and will greatly decrease the carbon emissions caused by spectator travel to games. Additionally, we can expect fewer resources to be consumed like fewer single use disposable items (e.g., plastic cups, hot dog boats, and programs), and less waste to be produced in addition to emissions reduction. Despite this, there will still be water consumed and chemicals used to maintain fields. Overall, this is a rare opportunity to completely rethink the fan experience from travel, ingress, egress, and fan educational initiatives that should be taken advantage of to further decrease the environmental impact of sport.

CITE: Mastromartino, B., Ross, W. J., Wear, H., & Naraine, M. L. (2020). Thinking outside the “box”: A discussion of sports fans, teams, and the environment in the context of COVID-19. Sport in Society, 1(aop), 1-17.


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