On a sunny day that only led the out-of-towners to complain about going sans coat, Minnesota United FC unveiled Allianz Field to a mass of local and national VIPs during a Scarf Raising ceremony Monday afternoon. Attendees were treated to a press conference that featured Loons owner Dr. Bill McGuire, MLS Commissioner Don Garber, Minnesota Governor and Lieutenant Governor Tim Walz and Peggy Flanagan, and the mayors of both Minneapolis and St. Paul.
“Allianz Field is stunning,” McGuire said, pointing both to the design and the stadium’s spot in Minnesota soccer history. “It is built for the sport of soccer, for the players and most importantly for the fans.” McGuire went on to point out the numerous benefits he saw the stadium bringing to the community, including the nearly $200 million spent on construction and the assistance from city and state officials in building up the infrastructure in the Midway neighborhood before concluding, “this stadium symbolizes this state, this sport, and this community in Minnesota.”
The press conference wasn’t without moments of levity, as both St. Paul mayor Melvin Carter, Jr. and Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey competed with one another for the title of Most Energetic Local Dignitary with wise cracks. “As the mayor of St. Paul,” Carter said, “I spend half of my time asking people to think bigger. I never have that problem with Dr. Bill.” Frey countered by (unsuccessfully) leading the crowd in a round of the chant “The Boys in Black and Blue,” before saying that he looks forward to coming over to games in the other Twin City, provided that Mayor Carter “stamps his passport.”
Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Flanagan also dropped surprise soccer bonafides in their remarks, with Walz—admittedly more experienced in “American football” as a state title winning coach at Mankato West—noting his work as a “soccer dad” for a daughter who made the state tournament three times. Flanagan, however, stole the day by not so casually referring to herself as a “striker liker” who also kept a poster of Kicks and Strikers goalkeeping legend Tino Lettieri on her bedroom wall.
The plaudits for the stadium weren’t all self-serving, as MLS Commissioner Garber praised the work done by the team and local government in between a steady stream of jokes ranging from his previous times in Minnesota (“I only have one groundbreaking snow shovel”) to piling on the roast of McGuire’s oversize suits. “It is so great to see Major League Soccer be embraced by mayors, governors, and politicians to really see what a soccer league can do to improve communities,” Garber noted. “From the outset Dr. McGuire promised us [Allianz Field] would be an icon in the north and that the stadium would be recognized around the world, and he and his team have over-delivered. This is going to be one of the great stadiums, not just in the U.S. and Canada but in the world.”
After a brief stanza of “Wonderwall” half sung by the gathered elites, media members were taken around and through the stadium, starting up on the Roof Deck over the Beer Hall. The tour made a number of stops, including the home locker room, the player tunnel leading onto the field, premium gathering areas including the Field and Stadium Clubs, the Black and Blue Shop, and various spots in the stands. We’ll have more photos as the week progresses, but here are a few highlights from our own Seth Steffenhagen: