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Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)
On several recent nights, still-to-be-finished Allianz Field has glowed blue, its LED lights making it look like something out of a Steven Spielberg movie.
On Tuesday, looking out over the stadium bowl toward the supporters' section at the north end of the stadium, it wasn't hard to imagine what this gray-sheathed stadium will be like when 20,000 voices roar.
The day is swiftly approaching when Allianz not only becomes the new home for Minnesota's professional soccer team but the centerpiece of a transforming neighborhood.
On track for "substantial completion" by Feb. 22, 20,000-seat Allianz Field is substantially further along than just four months ago.
Thanks to workers logging 225,000 hours over a productive summer, the stadium is 75 percent complete, said Greg Huber of Mortenson Construction.
Sixty percent of the stadium's seats have been installed.
Seventy percent of the stadium's fabric sheathing panels — like giant gray shrink wrap clinging to outer walls — are up. LED lighting, for the field and behind the sheathing, is in. So too is the giant scoreboard at the north end, right above the supporters' section, where an enormous loon's head is being painted and where 2,800 of the team's most die-hard fans will bounce around all game.
Just this summer, Huber said, workers completed 25 percent of a stadium the team is calling unique in the world.
"There's really nothing like it in the world," said Bruce Miller of Populous, the stadium architect.
Much of that can be attributed to the stadium's Space Age skin. The gray fabric sheathing, made of a material called PTFE, has been used to make conveyor belts but never before on a stadium. It's meant to keep the worst of wind and unfriendly Minnesota weather off fans, all while trapping the decibels they produce inside the stadium, to rattle the other team.
Work continues on Allianz Field's interiors — concourses, locker rooms, concession stands, restrooms and press box. Sod is scheduled to be laid Oct. 17.
"It really feels like you're in a building now," Miller said.
While the stadium will soon be Minnesota United's home for at least 17 games a year, team officials hope Allianz Field will host other events, including occasional concerts. United team owner Bill McGuire said once Allianz Field is complete, he hopes it can host high school soccer matches.
McGuire said he is also interested in hosting Gophers soccer matches.
For the past several months, neighbors too have been watching with anticipation as the stadium rises in the Midway area of St. Paul.
Jake Fleming, soon-to-be owner of the Trend Bar, said he's pumped about the stadium's potential to drive business at the Trend. He's spent months cleaning the place, bringing in more daylight (windows were covered with cardboard) and hiring more security to help erase the Trend's murky reputation. Fleming, whose wife, Katie, is co-owner, said they plan to rename the bar Katie's Tavern, and reinvent it as a soccer fan hangout.
"It's perfect timing," Jake Fleming said of the stadium's completion. "I hope. I'm praying."
Fleming said he expects to complete the purchase of the bar in the next few months.
The stadium, and a clientele moving away from hard-core daily drinkers (and users of other chemicals), are already changing the vibe of the area, he said. About a dozen people were eating, watching television or sipping a beverage in the Trend early Tuesday afternoon.
"When we took it over five months ago, there was nobody in here at all," Fleming said. "We're trying hard."
Seeing Allianz Field every day also has Fleming willing to stretch his sporting appetite beyond football, hockey and baseball.
"I don't know anything about soccer," he said. "But I'm looking into it. I'm trying my best."
McGuire praised the look and feel of the stadium, which his ownership group is paying more than $150 million to build, saying "a lot of the inspiration for this is Minnesota."
With undulating lines mimicking lakes and rivers, and translucent sheathing that will allow a northern-lights glow to show through, Allianz Field "will stand on its own as the finest soccer-specific stadium in North America," McGuire said.
Staff writer Megan Ryan contributed to this report.
James Walsh: 612-673-7428
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