With a new stadium under construction for the 2019 MLS season, Minnesota United FC is going out with a bang at its Oct. 21 TCF Bank Stadium finale, with a crowd of over 50,000 expected.
Construction on Allianz Field continues apace, with the striking new stadium hovering on the side of I-94 in the St. Paul Midway district. With signage up and the exterior largely finished, the new stadium serves as a daily advertisement for the team on the busy freeway while also transforming the formerly industrial-heavy Midway area. True, there are still some industrial holdouts in the Midway, but there is definite change in the area, fueled by the Green Line light rail, plenty of development in terms of new apartments and condos, and a slew of millennial-friendly offerings like brewpubs and artisan restaurants dotting the area. (Personal note: the Midway and adjoining Mac-Groveland was my home for 17 years and my family’s for decades before that, and I might have never left if the brewpubs and development came earlier.)
But before Minnesota United FC makes its way to Snelling and University, the 2018 season needs to be wrapped up. With the team out of the playoffs, the marketing has turned to one last hurrah at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus. Opening in 2009 as the home of the Golden Gophers, TCF Bank Stadium was also a temporary home to the Minnesota Vikings while U.S. Bank Stadium was built. It’s an underrated facility, with plenty of Minnesota touches (each arch on the exterior sports the name of a state county), and with a horseshoe design evoking memories of Memorial Stadium, the longtime home of Gopher football when the team was a national powerhouse, it has something for everyone. It’s also a very modern facility, sporting two wide concourses (indoor and outdoor) and energy-efficient design. Add in a killer view of the downtown Minneapolis skyline, and it’s a great place to take in any event.
And TCF Bank Stadium has been a good home for United, drawing 22,291 fans per game so far in 2018, with two home matches remaining. That last TCF Bank Stadium match, set for Oct. 21 with LA Galaxy in town, will see the entire stadium opened up, and the team has already sold over 50,000 tickets for that last hurrah. That crowd should be enough for the team to set a Minnesota pro soccer record, surpassing the crowd of 49,572 fans at the old Metropolitan Stadium to see the Minnesota Kicks beat the San Jose Earthquakes 3-1, winning the NASL Conference Championship. (It’s a record that will never be broken at Allianz Field, which has a capacity of 19,400.) And as part of the last hurrah, the team is offering throwback concessions: $2 hot dogs, $1 popcorn, $.75 small fountain sodas and more at select concession stands.
The Twin Cities is a crowded sports market, with NFL, MLB, NHL and NBA teams playing out of fairly new or renovated facilities, and a major college program competing for fans and marketing dollars as well. Minnesota United FC has been a surprising success in the face of this competition, and the MLS team reaching that next level in 2019 will be fun to watch.
Rendering courtesy Minnesota United.