Allianz Field stands where seven years ago there was nothing but an empty lot, a former St. Paul Midway bus barn site filled with broken asphalt and rocks.
"It was seriously ugly," Minnesota United managing partner Bill McGuire said. "It looked like a war zone."
McGuire looked out over a stadium gleaming in the evening summer sun as he spoke during Tuesday's MLS Skills Challenge.
Earlier Tuesday, MLS Commissioner Don Garber recalled what has grown from that empty lot, which was one of more than 20 sites McGuire's ownership group and MLS executives considered.
"So much work went into putting the Minnesota United team together," Garber said. "Getting the Midway site, getting it over the finish line, getting it built, seeing fans sell that stadium out. It almost brought tears to my eyes hearing 'Wonderwall' — which was totally natural, nothing manufactured — sung for the first time. The team has done well on the field.
"You have an event like this where you can see everybody celebrate what they've done and just be happy about MLS as can be. It's awesome, really awesome."
Filling a hole
This four-day MLS All-Star event is one of the last official events for MLS president/deputy commissioner and Oakdale's own Mark Abbott, who will pursue other interests near year's end. He was MLS' first employee before there was a league in 1993.
Abbott nearly left in 1999 before Garber was hired that year.
"I told him I need you, the sport needs you, the league needs you," Garber said. "It's hard to imagine MLS without Mark. It isn't what it is without him. It's a hole I don't know how we're going to fill."
He said it
Garber on the 10-year, $2.5 billion global broadcasting deal with Apple that was announced in July and starts next season: "Next year we will have every one of our games streamed to 800 million devices around the world. Anybody, anywhere can watch games in two languages without having to buy multiple subscriptions. We're playing the global game and we don't yet have a global audience.
"The best way to do that is engage with the leader in streaming content, the largest and most innovative company in the world."