One of the world’s most sustainable stadiums

At first glance, the biggest stadium in the Netherlands, the Johan Cruijff ArenA may seem like a typical venue for sports and music events Thousands of football fans regularly pack the stands to cheer on Ajax, and music lovers come for concerts by The Rolling Stones, Rihanna, Coldplay and other acts. But few realise this stadium is filled with eco-friendly and sustainable features that minimise its impact on the environment, making it one of Amsterdam’s greenest buildings.

For CEO Henk Markerink, sustainability isn’t a burden – it’s an important part of succeeding in today’s business climate and planning for the future. “Businesses are more and more expected to realise a perfect mix that impact the economy, people, environment and society as a whole,” he says. “To reach this goal, the Johan Cruijff ArenA realised early on that long-term planning would be necessary. And partnerships with other innovative partners, the local community, science institutes and the City of Amsterdam are essential.”

The power of sun, rain and wind

The stadium is topped by a massive retractable roof that takes about 20 minutes to open and close. At first sight, it looks like a sweeping metal structure that provides shelter and little else. However, this massive canopy plays a major role in the stadium’s sustainability efforts – it’s covered in more than 4,200 solar panels and collects rain that’s used to water the football field.

The field itself, a massive patch of green, is kept frost-free with a sustainable heating system. And when the grass gets too long, it’s trimmed with electric mowers. A biologist even monitors how each blade is affected by wind, rain, shade, sun and other factors to determine what it needs to thrive. As a result, the use of additional nutrients, water and light is carefully controlled, preventing waste. 

Going green with high-tech features

The visitor experience at Johan Cruijff ArenA is also enhanced by its green features. Those arriving by electric car will find charging points in the parking lot where they can juice up their vehicles during the game. There are discounts to encourage train travel and the escalators that shuttle people from floor to floor generate power. Roughly 80% of lighting in the stadium consists of energy-efficient LED bulbs controlled by motion sensors, so they turn on and off as needed. 

Old and new electric vehicle batteries have been used to create a three-megawatt storage system,the largest of its kind in Europe, that provides backup power. This decreases the use of polluting diesel generators and reduces the strain on the local energy grid during concerts when a vast amount of electricity is needed. The stadium also has its own windmill to churn out additional power, and water from the nearby Ouderkerkplas cools the dressing rooms and offices. 

Balancing people, planet and profit

All of these measures have earned Johan Cruijff ArenA a slew of honours, including the Green Apple Award for Environmental Best Practice and the Most Sustainable Stadium award from the World Stadium Congress in 2019. And though pursuing such a high level of sustainability may require careful planning and strategic investment, Markerink doesn’t believe it has to be difficult. 

“In the end, we feel balancing people, planet and profit has to be part of your DNA and core values,” he says. “But if you choose that, it’s very doable. We strive for excellence on very different levels with very different goals every day. The Johan Cruijff ArenA can work on creating the best fan experience in and around the stadium, offer our visitors sustainable meal options and other top-level services, be a test lab for innovative solutions regarding safety and mobility for our neighbours and benefit our partners all at once. It’s truly worth the investment as it creates sustainable value.”

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