How an elevated field will give Minnesota a proper stage for soccer

Minnesota United is about to move from one of the worst MLS venues to one of the best.

One of the steepest stadium sections in world soccer is coming to … Minnesota?

That’s one of a handful of design features which will make Minnesota United FC’s forthcoming stadium, Allianz Field, pop.

As the players come out of the tunnel at midfield, they will have this experience of rising up onto the stage.

- Bruce Miller, Populous

Before Loons supporters ever step foot inside the St. Paul-based venue, they’ll get treated to a colorful spectacle on the exterior of the new 19,400-seat venue.

Using color-changing LED lights, across the entirety of the plastic-based laminated exterior skin with fiberglass mesh, Minnesota United can light up the exterior of its new soccer-specific stadium, changing colors as desired to create a striking nighttime experience. During the day, the mesh offers a translucent feel, showing off the structure through the skin.

“At night, it should be really dramatic,” says Bruce Miller, Populous architect and designer of the venue. “It will be pretty stunning architecturally. The whole skin has an undulating pattern, a complex computer-generated geometry that evokes water and the concept of flow that is reflective of all the lakes and rivers in Minnesota.”

Ready in time for the 2019 season, Allianz Field features a 360-degree canopy to protect roughly 85 percent of the seats from Minnesota weather while helping trap crowd noise inside the venue. The canopy’s geometry doesn’t mimic the seating bowl, allowing all the seats on the west side to get covered and offering a bit more of an open feel on the east and south end, where the supporters sit. Also, expect radiant heating in locations to help provide shelter from the weather.

The supporters will fill a safe standing section, similar to Miller’s Orlando design but slightly smaller at a capacity of about 2,800. And steeper. The 24-inch riser (nearly 35 degrees) makes it one of the steepest supporter rakes in all of soccer, and by making the section aluminum, Miller “designed it to be like a megaphone.”

The balance of the concrete seating bowl remains steep, too, with nearly the same pitch on the east side of the venue as the supporters enjoy and an overall average of over 33 degrees. The closest seat sits 17 feet from the field and farthest 125 feet from a 120-yard-by-75-yard grass surface with underground heating.

In a first for American soccer, Miller elevated the pitch to create a platform for the players. That’s a welcome upgrade from the current aesthetics of the shared field with the University of Minnesota football team.

“As the players come out of the tunnel at midfield, they will have this experience of rising up onto the stage,” Miller says. “It also gives a unique perspective to the first-row seats.” The home team will leave its ellipse-shaped locker room — the space includes a nutrition bar, hydrotherapy and more — and make its way through a field-level club before rising to the field.

Elsewhere in the venue, Populous designed in a mix of seating types, an upstairs club level, cabana-style suites with a glass opening at the back, traditional suites and super suites. In all, expect 22 suites and four club sections.

The north concourse includes one more surprise for Minnesota United fans with a brew hall full of communal tables, a 60-foot-long bar and 82-foot-long glass doors separating the space from the walkway. “We hope it becomes the heart of soccer in the Twin Cities,” Miller says. “We envision them being open most days during the week and especially Saturday mornings. It is open to everyone, so we think it will be a nice amenity given the weather.”

The new Allianz Field includes firsts for soccer stadiums in the MLS. More importantly, it will give Minnesota a proper stage for soccer.

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