We end 2019 with a countdown of the 10 biggest stories of the year on Soccer Stadium Digest, as chosen by editors and partially based on page views. Today, #3: Minnesota United debuts state-of-the-art Allianz Field.
With a cutting-edge design and one of the most intimate atmospheres in all of American soccer, Minnesota United opened Allianz Field to wide acclaim, serving as a model for future MLS stadium development and also potential economic impact in an area of St. Paul that could use a boost.
The privately financed $250-million stadium opened with a bang in April 2019, and Allianz Field is designed to provide an intimate soccer experience. Putting fans close to players and the pitch, whether it’s a tunnel club between the locker room and field access or seating sections right on top of the action, is a guiding philosophy in the Allianz Field design. Intimacy takes different forms at Allianz Field. Take, for example, the Field Club seats, called the Directors Boxes. Populous has installed tunnel clubs in other stadiums and arenas, giving these fans a chance to see players as they enter and leave the game. At Allianz Field, there’s no glass or partition between the players and the club members: just an L-shaped walkway between the field tunnel and the locker room. That, too, would seem to be a very American thing—but one you’re now seeing in European venues as well.
For many, the defining feature of Allianz Field is its unique exterior: 88,000 square feet of transparent and laminated Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) mesh fabric wrapping the stadium. That fabric was stretched over a steel skeleton surrounding Allianz Field, backed by 1,700 emotive LED lights. By day, the PTFE mesh allows in light; at night, the LEDs can be programmed. The PTFE mesh itself is a technological marvel, but so is the design of the steel ribbing holding it together. Check out our opening-day tour for a look at what makes Allianz Field so unique.
The game-day experience isn’t the only noteworthy part of the Allianz Field story. Another important factor is how the stadium fuels economic development in St. Paul’s Midway area, and that impact won’t be seen for several years. The area surrounding the stadium is still a work in progress, with 35 acres of development planned.
Which will be interesting, given where the Midway is right now. Traditionally St. Paul’s Midway area has been a working-class neighborhood, with plenty of blue-collar jobs provided by manufacturing firms. And as manufacturing has receded, the Midway’s working-class profile has remained. The stadium and its development, which replaced a bus yard and parts of a shopping center, is expected to bring new investment to an area that needs it. The challenge will be to maintain the diversity of the area while filling the many empty storefronts on University and Snelling avenues.
Here’s the rest of our Top Ten of 2019: