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Facility Profile - February 2008

Thirty Years and Running

The Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, N.J.

By Tim Neary


W
hen it opened its doors in 1976, the Meadowlands Sports Complex in New Jersey helped usher in a new era of sports and entertainment facilities. Whereas other notable sports venues of the time typically were known for a single home team, the Meadowlands—with its NFL football stadium, NBA basketball court, NHL hockey rink and racetrack—hosted an entire region of professional and college teams. And the versatility of each facility made the Meadowlands an ideal place for dozens of non-sporting events every year.

Thirty years later, however, the Meadowlands is not the new kid on the block. Yet while other arenas of the same age, and some even newer, are already at the end of their lives, the Meadowlands remains a viable facility. In total, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA), which operates the Meadowlands, has invested $52 million into the complex to increase energy efficiency and improve safety and security over the past 10 years.

High-energy

A New Jersey landmark, the Meadowlands sits on 750 acres and houses three major facilities: Giants Stadium, home to the NFL's New York Giants and New York Jets; Meadowlands Racetrack, a 40,000-seat facility that showcases harness and thoroughbred racing; and Continental Airlines Arena, home to the NBA's Nets, the NHL's Devils, the Big East Conference's Seton Hall University and indoor events like concerts.

While upgrades such as modern scoreboards, more comfortable seating and new playing surfaces certainly help sell season tickets, efficient energy systems and the savings reaped from them can be just as important to the bottom line—especially during a time of rising energy costs.

The bulk of infrastructure upgrades began in 1996 when the NJSEA entered into a performance contract for energy upgrade and retrofit work. Since the 1980s, the NJSEA had relied on standard maintenance contracts that involved HVAC equipment and fire systems. But the long-term performance contract was a far more ambitious undertaking.

Performance contracts guarantee an amount of savings over a period of several years through energy conservation measures. The contract is structured in a way that allows the work to be paid for by the generated savings, leaving operating budgets untouched. In the case of the Meadowlands, the contract guaranteed savings of at least $44 million over 15 years.

The performance contract began at a time when the facilities already had 20 years of wear and tear. The NJSEA wanted to improve energy savings, the physical plant infrastructure and the comfort of employees and patrons. Even more challenging, it wanted to accomplish all of this with a single source supplier and a self-funding program.

Of course, the Meadowlands didn't exactly shut down for the retrofit. Because the complex was in constant use and installation was at various stages of completion throughout the buildings, the project often required mechanical and electrical contractors in different places at the same time.

The primary focus of the contract was to convert a site that primarily used electricity for heating and cooling to gas. First, NJSEA officials selected custom-built, high-efficient natural-gas-fueled chillers and boilers. Additionally, the upgrade work replaced aging lamps and ballasts in the administrative and common areas with more energy-efficient models.

For building control, the NJSEA installed a direct digital control system. The system included local area network architecture to enable NJSEA personnel to monitor and manage energy consumption across all three venues.

Engineers also aimed to maximize energy savings throughout all of the upgrade work and retrofits, which often required detailed engineering and selecting the best equipment from a variety of vendors. For example, in order to meet the load requirements and deliver savings at the racetrack, it was necessary to specify a combination of both natural gas and standard, electric chillers. The racetrack's final plan included three 700-ton gas engine chillers, one 1,350-ton electric and one 500-ton electric chiller.

In total, the performance contract and local utility rebates have saved the NJSEA about $40 million in the first 10 years of the contract.