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07/05/11 9:54 PM ET

Salt River Fields at Talking Stick go green

PHOENIX -- Since breaking ground in November 2009, the Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and HKS Sports and Entertainment Group have all shared the same vision for Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

"We wanted to turn the concept of Spring Training on its ear a little bit," saidByron Chambers, HKS director of sports design.

"We wanted to be as environmentally sound as possible," D-backs president and CEO Derrick Hall said.

"We wanted to have the highest caliber of construction while saving as much money and as many resources as possible," Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community president Diane Enos said.

And less than a year after opening its doors, that vision has been realized, as the Spring Training facility shared by the D-backs and Rockies has achieved LEED Gold Certification for New Construction from the United States Green Building Council.

The achievement is the first for a sports venue of its kind in the United States.

"We're thrilled about it," Hall said. "We thought it was a long-shot goal from the start, but we made it clear to the architects and construction company that we wanted to attempt to become certified. It's a very tough task."

The 140-acre complex built on Native American land consists of an 11,000-seat stadium with separate training facilities and clubhouses for each team.

"It's a huge accomplishment from an organizational standpoint," D-backs senior director of special projects Graham Rossini said. "It was something we wanted to accomplish at the forefront and we're excited it came to fruition."

In its inaugural season this past spring, the two teams set an all-time Major League Baseball Spring Training attendance record of 359,308. The D-backs were the Cactus League's top in attendance at 189,737.

"This means that the quality of our construction is top-notch when it comes to sustainability and for us, that's a good example to the values here," Enos said.

"Sustainability is an old, old concept," she continued. "You use as little material as you have to, you're conservative in your energy approach and use material that's not going to be harmful to the environment."

The LEED Certification measures, in simple terms, how "green" a building is. The Gold status is the second-highest a project can be awarded, above Silver and below Platinum.

"As a firm, we take a great deal of pride in the fact that we were able to do a project for Major League Baseball that embodies a kind of environmental stewardship that was important to not only the team, but culturally and historically," Chambers said.

Salt River Fields had sellouts in 21 of its 33 Cactus League games. Mortensen Construction was the general contractor for the venue.

"We're very proud of our accomplishment," Hall said. "For us to be the only one in all of baseball in terms of Spring Training facilities, it's a huge monumental accomplishment. We wanted to make [Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community] proud, and we did. This was their vision as well."

Here are some of the features that helped earn the LEED Gold certification;

• The stadium was designed with the angles of the sun in mind to provide maximum shade. More than 85 mature trees and cacti were uprooted and replanted to help provide that shade.

• The majority of the venue's exterior skin is constructed of masonry materials harvested from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community soil, and 40 percent of the building materials were derived from local suppliers and vendors.

• A calculated 45.5 percent savings in the use of potable water through low-flow and water-efficient fixtures

• A 23.5 percent energy savings from supplying conditioned air and thermal control strategies.

• Only one-third of the the venue's parking lots are asphalt, with the remaining 2/3 grass-covered and doubling as playing fields for the community when not in use.

Anthony Fenech is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.