Posted March 24, 2016
There’s energy in “March Madness.” You know, energy like Paul Jesperson’s heave from half-court, a banked-in three that let Northern Iowa stun Texas:
It’s Wisconsin’s Bronson Koenig nailing a buzzer beater to upset Xavier. It’s Notre Dame’s Rex Pflueger waiting, waiting and tipping one in to break the hearts of the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks and their fans. It’s Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield dropping 36 points on Virginia Commonwealth to land the Sooners in the Sweet 16.
Yeah, the NCAA’s annual men’s basketball tournament has some juice. But “March Madness” also takes some juice – energy. Whether you’re a perennial powerhouse or a No. 15 seed springing the upset, it takes a lot of energy to pull off the 64-team tournament. Without energy, there’s no Big Dance. Without energy, Cinderella never shows up.
From the lights and hot water to the uniforms and television broadcasts, energy is what makes “March Madness,” well – a slam dunk. And all of it falls into what I will describe as the oil and natural gas “Final Four” bracket: arenas, transportation, materials and broadcasting.
For this year’s “March Madness,” a total of 14 different sports arenas will be used for 62 games. These venues accommodate tens of thousands of fans and need a lot of energy to keep the action moving. Natural gas is often the star player, keeping the arenas on point by supplying the energy to configure the building for basketball, to regulate interior temperatures and keep players and fans comfortable.
Most of the “March Madness arenas” use high intensity discharge (HID) lights, which run on up to 1,500 watts of power each to keep the court brightly lit. The electricity that powers these bulbs will largely come from natural gas thanks to the technological innovations that have expanded domestic production in recent years (which we’ve noted before).
Concessions is another area where energy is indispensable. Natural gas fuels a number of the grills that cook the hot dogs and hamburgers, while refrigerators powered by natural gas-generated electricity keep refreshing beverages ice cold.
Meanwhile, the 64 teams and 700,000-plus fans who attend “March Madness” games each year also rely on energy for transportation – by plane, bus or car, crossing hundreds of thousands of miles. Think of this: The NCAA will arrange approximately 460 bus trips and more than 200 flights this year, just for players, coaches, cheerleaders and pep bands to attend the tournament. Abundant U.S. energy is key to fueling all the modes of transportation that will get teams and fans to game day and home again.
After a long bus ride or flight, many of these players and fans are likely eager for a hot shower, a good meal from a local restaurant and a comfortable hotel room. Natural gas is integral to all these road trip luxuries from powering hot water heaters to supplying electricity for HVAC systems and fueling the ovens and stoves of a busy sports bar.
Now, while energy for lights, temperature control, transportation and food is pretty straightforward, it’s also needed for these “March Madness” essentials: the uniforms, chairs – the basketball court itself. Petroleum byproducts, including polyester, plastic, synthetic rubber and polyurethane are made in factories often powered by abundant, affordable natural gas. Oh, and there’s the game ball:
Finally, while thousands of fans are fortunate enough to experience the games in person, many of us will scream and holler from our homes or favorite sports restaurant or bar. Not surprisingly, natural gas plays a central role in making sure you can enjoy the game from afar.
Because natural gas is one of the leading producers of electricity, which in turn powers the cameras, microphones, satellites and televisions that make it possible for you to watch from thousands of miles away. And, just as it does in the arena, natural gas also often provides energy for the heating and cooling systems in your family room or at the sports bar.
As you can see, oil and natural gas are essential to “March Madness.” While many of the competing universities include renewables in their energy portfolio, oil and natural gas are the primary energy source for the tournament today and will be for tournaments in future decades.
Now, back to the dancin’.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Green joins API after spending 16 years as national editorial writer in the Washington Bureau of The Oklahoman newspaper. In all, he has been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years, including six years as sports editor at The Washington Times. He lives in Occoquan, Virginia, with his wife Pamela. Mark graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in journalism and earned a masters in journalism and public affairs at American University. He's currently working on a masters in history at George Mason University, where he also teaches as an adjunct professor in the Communication Department.