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Energy Efficiency

City Doubles Down on Economic Development & Capital Improvements

How one Arizona city channeled energy infrastructure improvement into its wider vision for economic development, community engagement, and sports tourism.

Call it a light bulb moment. After interviewing half a dozen ESCOs, City leadership in Sierra Vista, AZ, were thinking about energy upgrades the way most municipalities do these days: upgrading infrastructure, lowering utility costs, and saving some money. As energy savings projects have been traditionally viewed as separate initiatives, they didn’t initially present as an option to use energy infrastructure improvements and savings as a lever in the city’s bigger strategic vision for economic development, community engagement, and sports tourism. It took a different kind of ESCO to leverage a master plan for economic well-being and quality of life.

“What set the Schneider Electric team apart was their willingness to work with us on our vision for the project and the community as a whole by talking about our strategic plan and especially our economic goals — not just how they could save us money on energy,” said Victoria Yarbrough, Assistant City Manager.

Helping Sierra Vista Become a Leading Attraction for Sports and Recreation

Two years into the partnership, it’s clear why Schneider Electric has become a valued member of the community. Using a standard energy savings performance contract, the Schneider Electric team has taken the city’s $14 million investment and transformed it into $20 million in lifecycle savings that:

  • Added synthetic turf solutions to five soccer fields, which will save water and provide year-round use — furthering the city’s commitment to being a sports tourism destination. 
  • Upgraded 454 HID sports field lighting fixtures with high-efficiency, NCAA-approved Musco LEDs at 17 fields and courts across the city, making it better able to attract sports tournaments.
  • Overhauled electrical infrastructure, which allowed for more flexibility and event capabilities at the city’s primary outdoor event space.
  • Provided environmental leadership branding and marketing initiative focused on community pride and engagement. “Having well-maintained and environmentally conscious facilities helps the city foster a sense of pride in our community,” Wilson said.
  • And soon: Replacement of the old inoperable wave machine with a new state-of-the-art system — making Sierra Vista one of only two municipalities in the state with this truly unique attraction.

“Many of our community sports teams would leave the area fairly regularly to participate in year-round league play and tournaments,” said Laura Wilson, Leisure and Library Services Director. “The renovated sports complex creates many opportunities for partnerships throughout our region and beyond that can bolster efforts to attract new tournaments, visitors and dollars to Sierra Vista.”

All of those strategic initiatives are being funded by more standard energy improvements that include:

  • Replacing more than 3,500 interior/exterior LED replacements
  • Significant HVAC upgrades at multiple sites
  • Upgrading wastewater aeration control to provide better operator control and significant energy savings

“The state-of-the-art Musco LED lighting in all of our sports complexes provides better player visibility, less glare and protects our beautiful dark skies from light pollution,” Wilson said.

“Our team in Sierra Vista has a long-term vision to become a leading attraction for sports and recreation in the state,” said Rick Mueller, Mayor of Sierra Vista. “With Schneider Electric’s expertise, we’re on our way to achieving that vision and much more. We’re excited to work to improve our City grounds and facilities, creating ideal locations for local events, vendors, and visitors alike.”

As of Q1 of 2021, the City of Sierra Vista had generated $1.6 million in economic impact from their sports tourism upgrades, with the yearly impact projected to be $6.5 million. The City has hosted several sporting events on its new fields and received positive feedback from players, visitors, and residents alike.

Combining objectives to propel a master plan forward with efficiency and sustainability

Sierra Vista approached this project with a long-term master plan in mind to take what seemed like a deficit — the need for energy improvements and upgrades — and turn it into an asset to achieve long-term goals. Fiscal deterrents and budget allotments required a plan staked on creativity in financing, project components and payback, and timeline for delivery that tied closely to the overall city objectives and achieved multiple tenants at once.

“In the end, we were able to put together an incredible project that balanced energy savings with investments the City of Sierra Vista wanted to make to achieve other strategic plan goals that we would not have been able to afford otherwise,” Yarbrough said.

With a focus improving quality of life for residents and visitors, attracting sports tourism to an often-overlooked locale, and improving operational and energy savings, the city knew where it wanted to go. But it needed a partner to help architect out how to make it possible.

As the City of Sierra Vista enjoys their new facilities, officials are looking to the future of what is possible. See their facilities in action.