Less than a year ago, the US Open - which is scheduled for what used to be the 11 driest days of the year in Queens, NY (according to historical data) - was halted by hurricane and tornado warnings. Normally, this would be a sports organisation's biggest fear, which without proper preparation, could result in panic or chaos.
“We need to be well prepared and have our evacuation plans in place in case the storm hits like it did,” Sean Cary, Managing Director, Competition Operations at United States Tennis Association (USTA), explains.
For these reasons, USTA uses Tomorrow.io’s weather intelligence technology.
The SpaceX of weather
“You can think of Tomorrow.io as the “SpaceX of weather,” says Itai Zlotnik, the company’s Co-Founder and Chief Customer Officer. The company’s tech offers sports organisations and global brands what they call actionable weather insights. “[We] created a platform that helps every industry and decision maker to understand not only what is the expected weather in the immediate future, but what are the recommended actions to take.”
For sports this could mean whether or not to delay games due to rain or to supply additional cold beers and hydration stations if it’s extremely hot.
The USTA works with Tomorrow.io to understand and deal with changing weather patterns and match-day decisions concerning the US Open, including when to close the roof while ensuring the temperature stays the same as when the roof was open (which has more implications than you may think).
With over 500 players, one million spectators, 20k employees and major stakeholders - including global broadcasters - there are countless elements the USTA must take into consideration when planning for extreme weather conditions. Perhaps most important is health and safety, and specifically that of their athletes.
“The support of the teams and the vendors that we use, like Tomorrow.io, [are] there to guide us and help us when things get a little bit spicy,” says Cary.
This doesn't apply solely to tennis. All outdoor sports, and even some indoor sports, need technologies such as Tomorrow.io to help monitor and prepare for unexpected weather events.
“Over the last few years, we have seen that every single year the weather is different. So the only way to prepare for it is to have the right plans in place,” says Zlotnik.
This is true for both summer and winter sports. In summer sports, it means playing in extreme heat. According to FiveThirtyEight, tennis matches in 2050 could be played in over 40 degrees celsius. For winter sports, this is reflected in snow availability, or lack thereof, amongst other weather-related events such as winter storms.
Preparing for both the expected and unexpected should be on every sport organisation’s agenda.
Globally we are all experiencing this impact, and more and more global organisations are taking steps to improve their sustainability and climate consciousness.
It should come as no surprise that sports leave a carbon footprint. According to EarthUp, in the US, 125m tennis balls are thrown away annually, resulting in 20k tons of non-compostable garbage. So how can they minimise their footprint? Every sports entity needs to confront climate change in a way that is safe, manageable and efficient. More and more energy-efficient stadiums are being built, including some with solar or wind power as an alternative energy source.
“When sports organisations were preparing for climate change, they were referencing historical data,” says Zlotnik. “This alone is not sufficient or effective anymore.”
Tomorrow.io’s solution offers insights on how to predict weather disruptions more efficiently while ensuring optimal playing conditions, as well as efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) for lower energy consumption.
It is time the sports world takes the proper steps to adapt to constantly changing weather patterns and become more environmentally sustainable. Today it may be hurricane and tornado warnings, but by next year we could be looking at additional weather-related challenges that we can’t even fathom.