Scarves have been hoisted. The pitch is nearly ready. And thousands of eager Twin Cities soccer fans are counting down the days until Allianz Field hosts its inaugural Minnesota United game at 4 p.m. Saturday, April 13.
But there are issues still to be ironed out, such as:
Where will people park? Will traffic snarl the area for hours before and after matches? Will, as a city traffic study suggests, nearly 8,000 fans leave their cars at home and take light rail or bus rapid transit to games? Will nearly 3,500 walk, bike or Uber their way to sing “Wonderwall” after a Loons win?
Eric Durkee, Minnesota United spokesman, thinks so.
“Our fan base is pretty excited about the public transportation,” he said, adding that the team continues to urge folks not to drive to the area around the stadium on game days. “We are very optimistic that our fans are going to embrace that as well.”
While city and team officials say they expect any wrinkles to be ironed out in time for the first game, the city has yet to issue a permanent certificate of occupancy. The $250 million stadium is currently operating under a temporary certificate that allows the team to host smaller events and work on the interior. A permanent certificate will be needed for games.
“The city is working with the team to satisfy remaining requirements for a permanent Certificate of Occupancy, including traffic and parking related matters,” Sam Fettig, soccer stadium communications and outreach manager for the city’s Department of Planning and Economic Development, said in an e-mail to the Star Tribune. “We are confident that all matters will be resolved in time for opening day on April 13.”
In many ways, Allianz will be a local test case for whether soccer fans are less tethered to their cars than fans of other Minnesota sports teams. They’re going to have to be. According to the traffic management plan the city released a few weeks ago, there is very little parking at the stadium — about 400 spaces, or enough to accommodate players, team officials and VIP fans paying a premium for the privilege. Parking at a ramp and lots within walking distance of the stadium is expected to accommodate another 760 vehicles and about 2,100 fans, according to the traffic plan.
For fans who want to tailgate, the team will offer packages that include a parking spot at the State Fairgrounds and a shuttle bus. An estimated 4,300 fans, or 22 percent of the gameday total, are expected to choose this option.
According to the traffic plan, 6,300 game attendees will get to the field by the Green Line and another 1,200 will hop the A Line bus rapid transit that rolls down Snelling Avenue. To alleviate long lines after the game, Metro Transit is planning to run extra buses and trains, said spokesman Howie Padilla.
He said Metro Transit plans to provide 13 to 20 transit ambassadors to help direct people to the correct train and bus platforms and up to 24 transit police officers to help with traffic control and security.
Stadium neighbors have for months on social media shared fears that area streets will soon be crammed with gameday motorists prowling for parking spots. Nevertheless, Steve Samuelson said many hope that the team and city messages urging fans to leave their cars at home will take root.
Samuelson, who has lived in the area for 20 years and is on the board of the Hamline Midway Coalition, said there is an informal agreement between neighborhood groups and the team to “keep talking as we move forward.”
Kate Mudge, executive director of the Hamline Midway Coalition, said she is “cautiously optimistic” that the plan will work.
And if it doesn’t?
“We have been told that this would be a flexible plan and that adjustments could and would be made after the first few games,” she said, adding that a web portal has been set up for people to share their gameday experiences and suggest changes.
“We’ll be doing our best to make sure that residents are aware of this,” Mudge said. “At the end of the day, if the plan needs reworking, we’ll want to share comments with people so we can come to solutions quickly.”