Central City is a unique town. It has only a few hundred year-round residents, but each week more than 8,000 visitors go to its casinos.
Those visitors will soon find a more environmentally-friendly town.
"We were pioneers a long time ago, maybe we'll be pioneers in the future," said Buddy Schmalz, the mayor of Central City.
He says residents and businesses are eager to make this town one of the first green gaming communities.
"Central City may be a historic town but we are progressing into the next generation and we really are concerned about our environment," said Schmalz.
With the help of the University of Colorado Denver's Sustainable Urban Infrastructure Program, Central City measured its carbon footprint and developed plans to save energy.
This past summer, graduate students from UCD's program completed detailed research to determine the amount of greenhouse gases being produced in Central City. They used methodology first tested in larger cities, like Denver, to calculate energy usage from transportation, buildings and materials.
"This city has a different urban dynamic compared to Denver and our Center for Sustainability Infrastructure is very interested in working with smaller towns, cities in Colorado and elsewhere. Their strategies can be quite different," said program director, Dr. Anu Ramaswami.
The carbon footprint study found some unique energy issues for Central City's six casinos.
"One surprise -- the slot machines generate a lot of heat. So much heat that even though Central City is around 10,000 feet and very cold they actually need to cool down the casinos," said Ramaswami.
She said one quick way to reduce energy is to replace slot machine lights with LED bulbs.
"The LED bulbs cost about $75 to retrofit each machine and that's expected to reduce energy use form lighting by 75 percent," said Ramaswami.
There's an added bonus. "They'll also generate less heat. Your energy to cool the casinos will be reduced," said Ramaswami.
Century Casino's is looking at retrofitting all of its slot machines and doing even more to become greener.
"We feel that our business has a social responsibility. If there are things we can do to help reduce our carbon footprint and concerns about the environment, we feel it's our responsibility to do what we can in the whole process," said Mickey Rosenbaum, the general manager of Century Casino.
These energy saving measures will also save money.
"It's a win, win situation," said Rosenbaum.
Central City's mayor believes his city is leading by example. He expects other gaming cities to become greener, too.
"Well, we're certainly hoping that's the case. We're going to do it regardless, but I think there are some towns that may look back to us and say, this is what we can do really," said Schmalz.
For more information on UC Denver's Sustainability Program visit UC Denver Sustainable Urban Infrastructure Program
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