New Expo Arena goes for the green

Published 2:15 pm Thursday, January 19, 2012

A new arena to break ground in Berrien County may be considered a landmark for green design because of its use of solar panels to generate 100 percent of its energy needs.

According to Jack Strayer, director of developing and marketing for the Expo Arena at the Berrien County Youth Fair, officials of the $17 million facility have begun working with Inovateus Solar of South Bend, building general contractor Fiskars Construction Services Inc. of St. Joseph and the architectural firm Genesis Engineering on a solar roof design.

Features of the “net-zero” energy design elements include a solar energy installation atop the 6.1-acre Expo Arena roof.  The renewable energy generated by the solar roof will be carbon-free, using the latest technology in solar panels for solar-generated electricity.  The system could be as large as 2 megawatts.

Once the solar system is installed, it will generate 100 percent of the Expo Arena’s energy needs, creating a “net-zero” facility.

About $3.7 million has been raised for the Expo Arena, and the plans for sustainable construction may lure more investors, Strayer said. The arena needs $5 million to break ground, and that may happen in late winter or early spring — ahead of the previous tentative date of September.

“All the stars are lining up in our favor,” Strayer said. “This will give us a big boost in our fundraising.”

The BCYF board has been very supportive of the new green energy concept, and the Department of Engineering at the University of Notre Dame also utilizing Inovateus solar panels on its roof has solidified their commitment to the plan.

The BCYF board has signed a memorandum of understanding with Inovateus, but the estimated cost of the solar panels has not been determined.

Inovateus Solar is a worldwide distributor of photovoltaic products and a turnkey installer of commercial and industrial solar electric projects.  It has been involved with the installation of many large-scale rooftop, carport and ground mount photovoltaic systems in the United States and abroad.

The solar panels are part of an overall sustainable building concept for the arena. Renewable construction materials and bamboo flooring are planned, and officials have confirmed the facility will not interfere with wetlands or agricultural land use.

The design of the Expo Arena includes a 500-stall stable with an indoor warm-up ring; a 4,000-seat show arena and 7,000-seat concert venue; and a hospitality center with a 14,000-square-foot-exhibition hall. The complex will include 18  classroom/sky boxes, locker and tack rooms and a concourse in the 400-by-75-foot stable for offices, shops and vendors.

An independent marketing study commissioned by the BCYF board concluded that when completed, the Expo Arena may help generate $32 million annually in new revenue and create 500 jobs within a 25-mile radius of Berrien Springs.
For more information, call (269) 473-1662.

Expo Arena at the Berrien County Youth Fair

Size: 6.1 acres

Phone (269) 473-1662

Address: 9122 Old U.S. 31, P.O. Box 7, Berrien Springs, MI 49103