MLS Stadium Projects

Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN

Allianz Field, St. Paul, MN

“Two years ago, it was a dream. It’s going to be our home for a long, long time.”

Adrian Heath, Minnesota United Head Coach

It cost $250 million to build Minnesota United FC’s brand-new 19,000 seat, 100 % privately financed Allianz Field in Saint Paul, Minnesota. ($20 million in public funds was used for infrastructure such as storm-water management.)

In the five years from the time the stadium was first imagined until construction actually began, construction costs took that figure rose from $150 million to $250 million. This is generally considered closer to the going rate for an MLS stadium in 2019. Opened on April 13, 2019, it is newest of eight Allianz soccer stadiums worldwide and the first in the United States. The stadium replaced a former Metro Transit bus storage lot.

Attributes

To being with, Allianz Field has the grass surface players prefer because it is forgiving on their bodies and the ball plays true. For spectators, the sightlines are great and the atmosphere intimate.

The supporters’ section is as to be expected: general admission and standing-only. It can accommodate 2,920 fans, in a steeply rising section directly behind the south goal, perfect for the most boisterous fans. Five different suite and premium seating areas on four levels accommodate the well-heeled on the stadium’s west stand.

At the closest, front-row fans sit a mere 17 feet from the sidelines.

The pitch is subtly raised 18 inches (45 cm) giving players a feeling of being on stage. That slight elevation also improves views over the advertising boards that surround part of the field. The stadium’s farthest seat — very top row, east-side second deck — is 125 feet from the near touchline. Those seats high up allow fans to see the play unfold below.

Brew Hall and Roof Deck

The north-end pub — initially open four days a week and on game days — aims to become the metro’s premier soccer bar, in particular as a viewing spot during World Cup years. The ticketed roof deck soaks in the sun and is a nod to the very rooftop decks that bloom every summer in downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul. An added piece, an analogue clock/manual scoreboard is a tribute to one formerly at the National Sports Center in Blaine.

An innovative, translucent, synthetic laminate PTFE wraps the entire stadium, 88,000 square feet in all. In daytime, it ripples and shimmers. While serving a practical purpose in blocking the wind, it is supposed to be reminiscent of Minnesota’s 12,000 lakes and the Mississippi River that flows from its borders. It also seems to transform with the changing natural light. On stormy days, it absorbs an angry sky, and on a blue-sky day it shimmers. At night, it glows with an LED light show. The exposed steel-beam grid is meant to recall the strength of the state’s Iron Range that built America.

That outer skin not only helps block the cold northern winds, it also glistens in the sun and, lit by computerised LED light, glows every colour imaginable at night, evoking the northern lights that sometimes illuminates the sky.

United Managing Director Bill McGuire, the public face of 16 partner families that financed the construction, calls the finished project that he and Kansas City, Mo., architecture design firm Populous dreamed into existence “truly L’Etoile du Nord, the Star of the North.”

Given the sometimes harsh weather, the stadium’s outer skin blocks wind, and its 360-degree canopy shelters nearly 90 percent of seats from rain and snow. The canopy was developed from similar types used in European stadiums.

The stadium sits on a 35 acre ( 14.16 hectare) site where more redevelopment is planned. Its design is low and accessible on its north-side entrance and large by the freeway. “You can see it,” said Bruce Miller, Populous senior architect. “It’s now become a landmark on the drive from Minneapolis to St. Paul.”

A May 2016 conceptual study shows Allianz Field surrounded by potential developments between Interstate 94 at top and University Avenue at bottom. Snelling Avenue and the existing Spruce Tree Centre are seen at right. (Courtesy of RK Midway, Minnesota United, S9Architecture and Populous)

Location Could Lead To National Team Games

The stadium could land early-spring and late-fall games for U.S. national teams that seek a home-field advantage against southern opponents. Allianz Field will be host in June 2019 for the international Gold Cup tournament, including the U.S. men’s national team’s opening game.

Pitch Heating System

A sophisticated field-heating system keeps the pitch playable in cold weather.

Is Size An Issue?

Allianz Field’s seating capacity ranks 14th largest among the 18 soccer specific stadiums in MLS. Therefore, one immediate concern with Minnesota United’s stadium is its size. “We are riding this wave of momentum that is sort of the next generation of professional soccer in North America,” said MLS Commissioner Donald Garber, who celebrated his 20th stadium opening as league commissioner Saturday. “I don’t think there is any end to what the sport can be.”

“I wish the stadium wasn’t 19,000 and that it was 27,000 because I think at some point we are going to be thinking of how do we make the stadium bigger,” he continued. “I think we are going to be dealing with that in a number of different markets.”

Allianz Field has the ability to increase capacity by about 6,000 seats, with an additional 1,500 or so possible in each of the four corners, which are currently open. There is space to add permanent seats in all four as well as a new deck above the north end’s roof deck, if needed. That’ll boost capacity from 19,400 to 25,000 including standing room. United CEO Chris Wright said in March 2018 that could cost around $40 million but that it’s premature to explore that this soon. Interest in the Loons is high, and season-ticket holders are capped at 14,500 right now. Minnesota United has more than 5,000 on its season-ticket waiting list.

Minnesota United’s new home “will bring soccer, the world’s game, to our community in a long-lasting way,” McGuire said, “with a vision that says we want the future to be better than the past.”