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Community impact

The U partners with the Pac-12 and the Maverik Center to research sustainability at sport venues.

By Ayrel Clark-Proffitt, Sustainability Office

For most, the main event on March 23, 2019, at the Maverik Center was the high-flying, high-energy contest between the UCLA Bruins and the Utah Red Rocks for the Pac-12 Gymnastics Championship title. But for a group of around 20 University of Utah students, the event represented the chance to understand sustainability at sports facilities through a community-focused research project.

PHOTO CREDIT: University of Utah Sustainability Office

Lauren Busbee surveys a fan on the concourse at the Pac-12 Gymnastics Championship. Students fanned out across the concourse to survey as many attendees as possible about sustainability-related issues the hour prior to the start of the nighttime competition on March 23, 2019.

The class, Trends and Issues in Community Recreation and Sports Management (PRT 3510), used the new location of the Pac-12 Gymnastics Championship to connect course curriculum to a real-world facility. Last year, the conference announced a three-year contract with the Maverik Center in West Valley City to host the gymnastics tournament. The course, which examines sport at all levels—youth, professional, recreation, etc.—focuses on trends ranging from youth development to community impacts to sustainability. For their final project, students are collecting and analyzing social science data to make research-based recommendations to improve sustainability for the Pac-12 and the Maverik Center to consider. The final report, due at the beginning of May, will include information regarding transportation, waste, recycling, concessions, community impact and more.

For some students, the class was an introduction to sustainability. Through the lens of sustainability, the class helped students connect the impact of sports on individuals, communities and the environment. Jeff Rose, assistant professor in Parks, Recreation & Tourism, said he feels the project at the Pac-12 Gymnastics Championship benefited both students and the Maverik Center. Through on-site surveying and observations at the facility, students were able to better understand perspectives and preferences for sustainable features by fans, which they will put into a report for the Maverik Center.

“The project provides equal value for both parties. Students are getting into the field and contextualizing examples of what sustainable possibilities exist,” Rose said. “The Maverik Center has not focused much on sustainability to date, but it has been open to our students and the project, and it will give them a vision for moving forward to better engage on this issue.”

Students in the class describe the experience of doing research at the championship as overwhelming due to the large crowd, but that it was good to get off campus and conduct research in a different setting.

“You do research projects for classes, but this was more—we had no idea going into it what to expect,” said students Siki Suguturaga and Matt Haskell. “Going there helped ideas from the class come together.”

Guest speakers from the Pac-12 Commissioners Office, the Maverik Center and the U Sustainability Office helped students better understand potential focus areas for their report. The project is an outgrowth of the Pac-12’s sustainability efforts and its Team Green platform, which brings together athletics and sustainability staff at each institution to support change across the conference and at its championship events.

“Core to our Pac-12 Team Green mission is providing a platform to amplify and showcase the tremendous sustainability efforts taking place on and around our campuses,” said Cheryl Wong, Pac-12 assistant commissioner, sport management and championships. “We are proud to have had support from Utah students to assist with identifying and evaluating sustainability opportunities for our 2019 championship event at the Maverik Center and look forward to continuing to execute these opportunities at future events.”

Banner image caption: Assistant professor Jeff Rose provides final instructions and tips to students in Trends and Issues in Community Recreation and Sports Management before the Pac-12 Gymnastics Championship at the Maverik Center in West Valley City on March 23, 2019.

Credit: University of Utah Sustainability Office.