Redevelopment plans around new soccer stadium call for mixed-use development
By Liz Wolf
Allianz Field – the future home of Minnesota United FC – is taking shape and on track for a spring 2019 completion.
The $200 million, privately-financed stadium is being constructed at the intersection of Snelling and University Avenues, off Interstate 94, in St. Paul’s Midway neighborhood. It’s being built on a vacant bus barn site that previously was used by Metro Transit. Part of the Midway Shopping Center, including anchor tenant Rainbow Foods, was also razed to make way for the stadium.
“Everything that we need for stadium construction, which is the first phase of this giant redevelopment, has been demolished,” says Hannah Burchill, marketing and PR manager at the city of St. Paul. “There’s still some foundation cleanup continuing,” she adds.
Site is part of superblock
The stadium site is part of a 34.5-acre superblock. The city of St. Paul has a master plan to guide redevelopment of this large urban area with the new stadium as the anchor. The area is bounded by University Avenue, Snelling Avenue, I-94 and Pascal Street.
Construction of the 346,000-square-foot stadium kicked off in June 2017. The construction manager is Minneapolis-based Mortenson Construction and Kansas City-based Populous designed the facility. The expandable, bowl-shaped stadium will seat nearly 20,000 including a standing supporters section for 2,800 “super fans.”
The stadium will also feature a natural-grass field, and the farthest fan will be seated just 125 feet from the pitch, the team reports. A large, 360-degree canopy will be built around the stadium to protect spectators from inclement weather and help contain interior sound. The stadium will also include 25 suites, 38 semi-private loge boxes, and four club rooms.
Construction is progressing at a very solid pace. Structural steel started going up at the southeast corner of the site, and now is beginning to wrap around to the south. The exterior translucent fabric installation will begin in summer 2018. The first of the seats will be installed in fall 2018. The grass will be installed and “put to sleep” for the winter in preparation for the team’s first season at the new facility.
Project is on schedule
“Things are progressing and we’re really excited about that,” says Donna Drummond, director of planning for the city of St. Paul. “We meet every couple of weeks with all of the various city staff and different departments that are working on the stadium site and the subgroups that are interacting with Mortenson or team officials. We all check in regularly because there are a lot of details to work through with the construction.”
Minnesota United CEO Chris Wright is excited about the new stadium for two main reasons. “No. 1, the fact that we‘re building a soccer-specific stadium in the Twin Cities is absolutely huge for the game,” he says. “The fact that we’re able to construct a 20,000-seat, purpose-built stadium — all privately funded – is sort of remarkable.
“And No. 2 for the Midway area, you’d love to think that you can be involved in a project that’s going to be about urban redevelopment,” Wright says. “When I see the location and the meaningfulness of this development in that particular neighborhood, I really think it’s not going to be economic, it’s going to be social. We’re going to create the vibrancy in the neighborhood that maybe traditionally hasn’t been there. I think we can do sort of a face change for the neighborhood and help it continue to re-establish itself in the Twin Cities marketplace.”
When completed, the stadium is expected to draw thousands of visitors to the area.
20-acre redevelopment planned around stadium
Plans call for the stadium to anchor a redevelopment of the old Midway Shopping Center site, located immediately to the north. The goal is to create an “urban village” around the stadium that includes retail, residential, office and public open spaces. The city says that development will likely occur in phases over time.
The city’s master plan was drawn up for the redevelopment of this broader area, including the stadium site and adjacent properties owned by New York-based RD Management (including the Midway Shopping Center). The buildings occupied by Rainbow Foods, Walgreens, Home Choice, Big Top Liquor and Midway Pro Bowl have been or will be demolished.
“Our plan to expand the Midway/Allianz Field project and turn it into a mixed-use experience is an early-stage development that presents tremendous opportunity,” says Richard Birdoff, principal and president of RD Management.
Minnesota United closely involved with the redevelopment
“We’re jointly developing the site,” Birdoff explains. “When I define the site, it’s other than the stadium. On the balance of the property, Bill McGuire (owner of Minnesota United), myself and related entities will be developing a mixed-use project that will have a variety of uses that will include commercial such as retail, food and beverage, a health club, possibly a theater and above that would be residential. [There will also be] hospitality on the site. And plans have shown a vast amount of open, green space that would be a community park-like setting.”
Birdoff says the stadium is the “catalytic event to jumpstart redevelopment,” and he’s seeing a very strong interest in residential development with first-floor commercial.
“Down the street, the Whole Foods/Ryan project has been a great success,” he says. “As you go up and down the Green Line at all the various stations, you see new development and redevelopment. Those are some great developments, but none has the acreage that this site has and it just gives it endless possibilities of what can be developed here.”
He says they’re in the planning stages and doing various designs. They hope to be under construction some time in 2018, and it will likely be a phased project.
“There’s a retail section of the old Midway Shopping Center that’s still standing and will stay for the time being,” Birdoff adds. “But ultimately, we hope to be able to redevelop the entire site and give those merchants that are still at Midway Center the opportunity to be part of the new development… Bill McGuire and myself are both very excited about the redevelopment here.”
Drummond explains that RD Management owns the remaining acres outside the stadium site on the superblock, and McGuire has a master lease for that land. The two are working together.
“They sent out a national call for development partners or development proposals last fall,” she says. “We haven’t heard the results yet.”
Drummond says the Snelling Avenue frontage would probably be redeveloped first, because it has the most visibility and is closest to the LRT station.