The University of Florida’s Stephen C. O’Connell Center is one of the current hubs of top-shelf basketball action in the country. The men’s Gators team is currently ranked third in the Associated Press poll entering the last few weeks of regular-season play, and if recent history is any indication, head coach Billy Donovan will have the team primed for another deep postseason run. The O’Connell Center, which opened at the start of conference play during the 1980 season, is one of the more diverse arenas on any college campus — hosting men’s and women’s basketball, women’s volleyball, swimming and diving, women’s gymnastics and indoor track. Not surprisingly, it is home to a deeply passionate fan base, Gator Nation, while also hosting a remarkably effective recycling program. The O’Connell Center’s Senior Event Coordinator, Philip Costa, recently detailed the arena’s recycling efforts to 1-800-RECYCLING and gave some insights on what to expect in the future. “We have tried to make it extremely convenient for our fans to recycle at the O’Connell Center,” Costa said. “At each location that you see a trashcan, there should also be a recycling bin directly next to it — all of these should have a “partner” inside of our lobbies and main arena.” Patrons visiting the arena can recycle souvenir cups sold at the arena’s concession stands, as well as aluminum cans and plastic bottles. Costa mentioned that the O’Connell Center staff is trained during events to make sure that the trashcans and recycling bins always make their way back to their correct location with their partner even if they are separated for certain events. Trash and recycling numbers are tracked for every event at the O’Connell Center, including everything from small events in the arena’s auxiliary spaces to sold-out men’s basketball games with a capacity of 11,548. This is where UF breaks away from the rest of the college pack — very few schools have the resources or take the time to keep track of waste on an event-to-event clip. “Our staff logs the number of full bags for each type of waste during the event, as well as during post-event cleanup,” Costa explained. “These numbers are kept and compared on an annual basis so that we are able to see which events have room to improve.” That last word that Costa mentioned — improve — is at the heart of the recycling focus at the arena. The O’Connell Center has a Green Team made of student employees that heads up a variety of programs and initiatives at the arena that aim to grow recycling awareness and efficiency. The Green Team has increased the number of recycling bins around the arena’s concourse areas, added recycling bins on the athletic events press row and has worked to decrease paper waste throughout the arena. “This team, as well as all of our full-time staff, is consistently trying to develop new ideas and programs to make recycling a priority for our staff and patrons,” Costa said. “Because of our relationship with the university and the University Athletic Association, our staff and venue are constant partners in other programs to go green and increase efficiency on campus.” Costa urges O’Connell Center visitors or those interested in learning more to check out the Gator Zone Sustainability page, the Sustainable UF website and the Neutral Gator program to learn more about the conservation efforts underway across campus.
Rebound and Recycle: Greening the Game at Florida
Waste and recycling numbers are tracked at every event at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center to ensure diversion rates continue to improve.