Sections 20 to 24 inside Allianz Field are known as the Wonderwall, but that area of Minnesota United’s fabulous new home should be renamed “Wonderwhat?” because you can’t hear anything except EXTREME NOISE.
Wonderwall serves as the stadium’s epicenter, its soul, the place where you go to party and leave with a massive headache.
Picture a row of bass drums being pounded nonstop, nearly 3,000 people screaming until they’re hoarse and smoke clogging your nostrils after goals. If there’s such a thing as organized chaos, this is it.
“The noise in the stadium was everything we thought it would be,” United coach Adrian Heath said.
The Loons officially opened their own stadium Saturday, and the place exceeded reviews. Bill McGuire and his ownership group brought to life a $250 million jewel. There’s no better description than to say it’s perfect in every way as a soccer-centric venue.
Especially Wonderwall, named after Oasis’ hit song from the mid-1990s that has become United FC’s official victory song.
Located in the stadium’s south end, closest to Interstate 94, Wonderwall has 2,920 spots dedicated to various supporter groups. They stand, not sit, because there are no seats and because supporters never take a break from chanting and singing and making fun of the other team’s goalkeeper. (He earned the ridicule.)
Wonderwall is equal parts diverse and raucous. And fun. Intense fun.
The crowd included kids, millennials, Gen-Xers, moms and dads, grandparents and apparently a guy who was in the process of passing a kidney stone. Word is he didn’t want to miss the stadium’s unveiling.
Hey, United supporters are passionate about their team. And Saturday’s celebration was a moment many years in the making.
A 3-3 draw with New York City FC left the Loons disappointed and meant fans didn’t get to sing Wonderwall. But let’s be honest, the home opener wasn’t as much about the outcome as it was the venue and a dream becoming a reality. For this one match, at least.
“I’m having a hard time finding the words,” said Bruce McGuire, considered a godfather of United supporters. “It’s a feeling of permanence that I’ve never felt before.”
Bill McGuire collaborated with supporter groups in creating the Wonderwall section. The owner listened and embraced their input and suggestions, understanding their role in creating a unique gameday experience.
“The atmosphere is unlike anything out there,” said Nicholas Bisbee, one of the founders of True North Elite. “There’s no flashing lights that say, ‘Stand up.’ We are that. We are the soundtrack to the match.”
The soundtrack was turned up full volume Saturday. When the Loons scored, the stadium roared like a 747 revving its engines for takeoff. One security guard stationed at the bottom of Wonderwall wore ear plugs. A veteran move, sir.
The Wonderwallers have their own drum line, song leaders and designated flag wavers. They even had a cheer, on cue, for when a New York City FC player fired a shot high and wide of the goal into the stands. And they literally lol’ed when opposing goalkeeper Sean Johnson whiffed on a ball rolling toward him, letting in a goal.
Stadium architects deserve an assist for the elevated decibel readings. Wonderwall rises at a 35% incline, with aluminum flooring and an overhang that traps in sound.
Allianz Field doesn’t need piped-in noise. The stadium was constructed to maximize authentic noise.
“The greatest noise I’ve ever heard was in Mexico City in the Azteca Stadium when Mexico scored,” superfan Bruce McGuire said. “That was 100,000 people. I thought the place was coming down. [Allianz Field] won’t be that physically powerful, but emotionally [it is] tenfold.”
McGuire stood outside Black Hart of St. Paul, a bar along University Avenue, as he envisioned his first game in the new stadium. Supporter groups flooded bars along the main strip hours before kickoff.
The Dark Clouds congregated at Black Hart. True North Elite gathered at Dual Citizen Brewing Company. The mood was festive everywhere.
“It’s almost surreal,” TNE member Alex McCracken said.
Supporter groups united outside the stadium at 2:30 p.m. They came on foot and by light rail. They chanted and waved flags and ignited smoke canisters on the march inside.
“It feels like the job is done,” Bisbee said.
A job done right.