Construction on United's new stadium hits 50 percent

5 May 2018

After an unnaturally wet summer and brutally long winter, construction on the Minnesota United's soccer stadium in St. Paul reached the 50-percent completion milestone this week.

Workers are pivoting from steel and concrete design to mechanical and electrical systems, with the canopy roof almost finished, videoboard and seats on the way, and the translucent windbreaker hugging a large portion of the building taking shape.

More than 250 workers are on site six days a week, with another 100 tradesmen and women scheduled to descend on the intersection of Interstate 94 and Snelling Avenue by the middle of this month, according to Mortensen Construction.

"We're halfway home but we have a really busy summer ahead," project manager Greg Huber said Thursday.

The first piece of steel was raised in November after groundwork was finished. Since then, the cement rows of the upper and lower bowls have been poured, corporate suites and club level seating is framed out, the north end beer hall is going up and the standing-only supporter's section is coming around on the south side of the stadium.

The moonscape of the pitch is covered with limestone to accommodate the heavy cranes, earth movers and waste bins, although the intimacy of the 19,400-seat stadium is obvious. There will be little separation between fans and players.

"The aesthetic is just tremendous," said William McGuire, Minnesota United's primary owner. "The combination of architecture and functionality with the game-day experience is pretty overwhelming."

Huber said the $200 million public-private project is on schedule and within budget. The Major League Soccer stadium is slated to open in February 2019, with the inaugural Loons game expected to take place in April.

"We've got a lot of exciting things happening and it's all tracking really, really well," Huber told reporters during a guided tour. "Our critical path is to make sure we get the sod installed by the middle of October so we're set up to have the first game here in the spring of '19."

The Kentucky bluegrass sod is growing in Colorado and will be delivered to St. Paul after the heating and draining systems are installed, along with grow lights built to sweep across the field and help the grass continue to grow through late fall.

Also, a 685,000-gallon cistern will go under the north lawn to collect rainwater and storm runoff to irrigate the landscape surrounding the stadium in the Midway Center.

Spring's late arrival has been welcomed with open arms by construction workers, who were forced to work under enclosures longer than usual, even by Minnesota building standards.

"They're incredible craftsmen," said Huber. "It takes a lot of guts to get up there when it's a windy, cold day or to do anything. There's a lot of resiliency in the workforce. That helps us keep on track."

Aluminum platforms for the supporters' section already are in place, with the enclosure rails scheduled to be installed in June. It is the highlight of the seating bowl, with its 34-degree angle — the steepest design in MLS — able to house 2,800 standing and screaming Loons fans.

"Noisy, very noisy in there," McGuire predicted. "You can see how the roof is going to keep that contained and push it back in. That's going to be one of the great things."

This month, the translucent super-fabric ETFE horizontal façade, which is being produced in New Hampshire, will go up around the stadium. The signature element of the project is a laminated mesh that will allow light to shine through the outer walls while blocking wind and rain.

"It was a key design element for fan comfort, so it will wrap all the way around the stadium," Huber said. "It can also be illuminated and is also architecturally super interesting and will really be a unique stadium in the world.

United already is working to host an MLS all-star game, CONCACAF Gold Cup matches and U.S. national team contests.

"I think it will be the best, not one of (the best stadiums)," said McGuire. "There will be few people that argue. We all watched last week Los Angeles launch their stadium. It's a very beautiful stadium. I think it's very much about California. But I think we're going to be willing to put this one up against that or any others very similar."