Construction at the Allianz Field site in St. Paul officially hit the halfway point this week, according to officials with Mortenson Construction and Minnesota United FC. The team welcomed members of the media to review the progress and tour the site on Thursday, as well as to receive updates and comments from Loons owner Dr. Bill McGuire and Mortenson site superintendent Greg Huber.
“Our two big cranes in the middle are now gone, and we’re really starting to be in transition mode,” Huber noted. That transition was evident with how far along the structural elements had progressed, as well as in the addition of architectural and fan-facing elements. Installations of seat hardware will be coming in over the next few weeks, with actual seats getting brought in during June. The construction team also expects to receive their order of video boards shortly, and to mount the main screen in the southeast corner and banner screens around suite/club level within the month.
On the outside, roughly 60% of the decorative “ribbon steel” has been installed, with a first portion of the outer rain screen mesh to be installed this month. “That continues to track on pace for the first panel of the rain screen to be installed in the middle of May,” Huber said, “so we’re tracking sometime in the week of May 14 to see that go up. Also, the lights that will illuminate that facade will be installed as that facade goes around.” The initial segment will be in the neighborhood of 10,000 square feet.
The hard efforts of the construction staff came up for effusive praise from both Loons owner McGuire and multiple Mortenson staffers. With audible excitement about watching the project develop, McGuire mentioned that, “It’s amazing how much has been accomplished in so little time from just the construction and the planning, and overall the parallel developments of everything.” McGuire was also quick to praise how close the final product is to the vision provided by the architects at Populous: “From the original design you all saw, it looks like it, and more importantly, frankly, how stunningly beautiful it is as a piece of architecture.”
Huber, meanwhile, was full of praise for how the construction staff persevered through significant weather challenges to remain both on time and on budget. “I think the weather was the biggest unforeseen [challenge], quite honestly,” Huber expressed. “Then this winter was this winter. It was snowy, it was cold, this spring never gave up, so our folks were under enclosures for a long time, a lot longer than typical.” Shorter weeks in the winter were budgeted into the time schedule, but as Huber discussed, “This workforce is a very hardy workforce. Looking around this job site every day, they’re incredible people, incredible craftsmen. It takes a lot of guts to get up there when it’s a windy, cold day, or to lay block, or to do anything. There’s a lot of resilience in the workforce and that helps us to stay on track.”
Guests on the tour then got an opportunity to inspect the concourse’s southern end, and check out the field level that, between August and October, will be sodded with natural grass. The progress made on both bowls of seating areas was evident, with much of the concrete already poured. The tour also gave ample views of the Supporters Section, which thus far is only framed in. Huber mentioned that the installation of safe standing rails should begin starting in June.
Even with the pitch level covered in a protective layer of rock and gravel, it was hard not to find different areas of the field and see how close each section would be to the action. The skeleton of the Supporters Section still felt invasively close from 60 yards away, where the center circle would sit. The upper bowl of seating in particular felt directly above the field, with suite-level seats perched above along the western side.
Also, if you want a sense of why lower bowl seats cost so much, let me show you the East End from center circle pic.twitter.com/ZaFoSMQ5Hp— Colin O’Donnell, but a current name meme (@theattachment) May 3, 2018
Looking north from the Supporters Section, one could see the initial framework of the beer hall that will abut the Great Lawn. Team and construction officials also made note that the roof of the beer hall would be used as a party deck during games, though McGuire was tight lipped on details.
As the tour exited the stadium, elements of the construction process were on display via a curiously placed set of bleacher seats. Mortenson had set up a prototype row of seating—complete with concrete rows—to test the rail and bracket system that will allow the club to add and subtract seats as necessary. A small section of plastic seats mirroring the ones slated for the upper midfield areas was on display, with Brian Quarstad of FiftyFive.One giving high marks in his test run.
Greg Huber with Mortenson said that with the current pace of construction, all signs suggest that the initial planned date of February 22, 2019, for turning over the keys to Allianz Field to Minnesota United FC. “Our critical path is to make sure that the sod gets installed in the middle of October so that we’re set up to have a game here come the spring of ‘19,” Huber said, noting that the process of moving sod in from Colorado will begin in August.
Dr. McGuire noted that while the team is exploring options for an opening event, “I think it’s going to be hard to do anything major as a real first opener largely because of the grass. We really need to protect that grass as it’s going in this fall [...] The home opener will be decided by the league, but I suspect it will be in April.” This would fall more in line with the late openings in 2018 at both Portland’s Providence Park and last weekend’s curtain raiser for LAFC’s Banc of California Stadium, though indications were more positive in believing that any delay would be less focused on construction and more based on Minnesota’s luck with spring weather.