Dr. Bill McGuire, owner and managing director of Minnesota United FC, spoke of the upcoming inaugural soccer season in Allianz Field and urban redevelopment on Feb. 1 to a sold-out crowd at James B. Woulfe Alumni Hall on the St. Paul campus.
Here are five observations from his talk, part of the 28th annual St. Thomas Alumni Association First Friday Speaker Series.
1. An extraordinary opportunity is emerging with the urban redevelopment of the Midway area.
McGuire said that the Midway area was chosen as the location of Allianz Field for numerous reasons.
"What does Midway mean? Midway between a bunch of communities, in particular St. Paul and Minneapolis," he said. "Access to everybody in our broader community. And the fact that it was adjacent to public transportation, as we think about the future and how to better deal with issues of transportation and environment. Further, the absolute unfulfilled need and opportunity to improve an area."
He described the stadium area before Allianz Field as "ugly, negative vibes, bad influences ... visible to everybody as they drove by on our busiest freeway, or on our new shiny rapid transit line, or in a bus or a car as they drove up annually to the (State Fair) Great Minnesota Get-Together."
McGuire shared slides previewing the proposed changes to the area, which include office space, retail, a multiplex and a hotel.
2. Top-tier professional soccer is here in the Twin Cities.
"1976 was the start of pro soccer in Minnesota. Some 47,000 people got together to watch the Minnesota Kicks play the San Jose Earthquakes in a borrowed stadium down in Bloomington where the mall now sits," McGuire said.
He said that it was "pretty much a slow downhill" for professional soccer in Minnesota after that – until now.
Last October, Minnesota United played in front of 52,000 fans at TCF Bank Stadium. The Minnesota United logo was voted the 14th-best soccer logo in the world. On April 13, the team has its first home game at Allianz Field.
3. Soccer parallels our society.
"Soccer is really the greatest game in the world. It has the most 'mosts.' It is the most played, it is the most watched, it is the most valued, it is the most competitive, it is the most accessible, it is the most diverse of any sport," McGuire said. "It is most intertwined with its community and its fans – it is like no other."
Players from many nations are on the Minnesota United roster; the team's fans represent many nationalities as well.
"It [soccer] is the world's game. It is a beautiful game," McGuire said.
4. The opening of Allianz Field will be the event of the year in the Twin Cities.
"This will be the finest soccer stadium in North America," McGuire said. He highlighted some of the stadium's characteristics, including:
- Modest in size, with a capacity of approximately 20,000 people
- Four clubs and a restaurant
- 120 x 75-yard pitch
- Three and a half acres of side grass around the stadium
- Half-acre of planted beds
- 192 trees representing 10 species
- 400 bicycle racks
5. Allianz Field is a microcosm of our area's future.
The stadium already has gained international recognition, with many calling it "L'Étoile du Nord" ("The Star of the North").
McGuire noted the complaints when the Allianz Field lights were tested last December; those complaints seemed to overwhelm the photographs of the stadium lit up that spread across the internet, and compared that incident to society as a whole.
"Are we going to aspire to greater things, or are we going to accept the known, even if it's not what we would like and what we can do? ... If we look at the trends for the future, what [the Midway redevelopment] was about – transit-oriented development, higher-density living, green space and environmental sustainability, the notion of urban villages, entertainment districts and diversified communities – if we couple that with ways to enhance our community ... we're going to also need a better tax base, job opportunities and things that make day-to-day living better," McGuire said.
McGuire closed out his talk by assuring attendees that, with the Tommie-Johnnie football game coming up in October, Allianz Field would be lit up in purple after the game "in celebration of a [Tommie] victory."