St. Paul's new soccer stadium gets its name
ST. PAUL — The name Allianz decorates professional soccer and rugby stadiums in Brazil, Germany, Italy, France, England, Austria and Australia. By early 2019, the Munich-based life insurance company will proudly advertise itself over St. Paul's Midway, its first North American title agreement.
Walter White, CEO of Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, shared a celebratory handshake with Dr. Bill McGuire, managing partner of Minnesota United FC, as the two Golden Valley-based companies announced Tuesday that they had finalized naming rights for the 19,400-seat Major League Soccer stadium under construction off Interstate 94 in St. Paul.
The $200 million stadium will be known as Allianz Field when it greets its first visitors less than two years from now.
"We do think the visibility of the stadium is outstanding," said White, noting "thousands of people a day" will see the company name along I-94, Snelling and University avenues. Given the time difference across the Atlantic, the media announcement was held at 8:30 a.m. to allow European news stations to run the story on their evening broadcasts.
Allianz, which employs 1,850 workers at its North American headquarters in Golden Valley, is one of the Twin Cities' largest insurers and a subsidiary of German company Allianz SE, which is ranked by Fortune Magazine as the 34th-largest company in the world by revenue.
The 12-year deal locks in Allianz as the stadium's official sponsor, though exactly how much that will cost them has not been announced. Financial terms were not disclosed, but McGuire said negotiations unfolded over the course of more than a year, and the possibility of a partnership arose three years ago.
"We have no intention, similar to any of our partnerships, about talking about details," said McGuire, in response to a reporter's question. "Any funding flows into construction of a brand new, state-of-the-art stadium."
The stadium name was leaked by the Allianz company itself, briefly, on Twitter Monday afternoon, but soccer fans had buzzed about the possibility of Allianz as a title sponsor as far back as March. "We like to call it a soft launch, instead of a snafu," White joked.
"I've only heard positive things, particularly from soccer fans," McGuire said.
Minnesota United, which had been playing in Blaine, joined Major League Soccer for the 2017 season and moved its matches to the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis while construction moves forward on its permanent St. Paul digs.
Underground retaining walls, soil removal and other pre-construction essentials got underway this summer, and structural steel is expected on site in September. The privately funded stadium, which will begin to take shape this fall, "is going to be right away one of the best soccer stadiums in North America, and that includes those amazing stadiums in Mexico," said team sporting director Manny Lagos.
According to a statement from the team, stadium highlights will include:
• 19,400 total seating capacity for the first year, with a possible expansion to 24,474 seats.
• Four hospitality clubs and 22 suites.
• Seats between 17 feet and 125 feet from the field.
• A low stadium profile, with its tallest point being 78 feet tall and its longest dimension being 660 feet. It will be built on 346,000 gross square feet of space.
• A natural grass field that is heated and measures 120 yards by 75 yards.
• A standing supporters section of 2,800.
Allianz has stadiums named for it in London; Munich, Germany; Nice, France; Turin, Italy; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Sydney, Australia; and Vienna, Austria. This will be the first carrying its name in North America, and the first professional sports stadium in Minnesota to receive no direct public subsidy. The structure will be built by Mortenson Construction and then conveyed to the city, which will own the facility and maintain a 52-year lease with the team, its major tenant, as well as the Metropolitan Council, the major landowner.
The city, St. Paul Port Authority, Ramsey County, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and Metro Transit are contributing more than $18 million in environmental cleanup grants and other public funding for infrastructure in and around the site, such as street approaches.
The stadium's exterior polymer mesh will feature LED lighting technology similar to Allianz Arena in Munich, which allows the stadium to change colors during different events, seasons and times of day. Allianz Field is designed by Kansas City-based Populous.
Bruce McGuire, editor of the soccer blog Dunordfutbol.com, said stadium nicknames have been swimming across his Twitter feed, though few seem to borrow directly from the new naming rights: Cloud City, Stade Du Nord, Midway, The Nest, Pig's Eye Park, The Loons Nest and AllezLoons Field.
On social media, St. Paul mayoral candidate Tom Goldstein was less amused, noting the latest renderings show the stadium — which will not pay property taxes — ringed by parking lots instead of long-awaited private real estate development. "Even more insidious, though, is the 'track record' of Allianz's German parent company," Goldstein said.
In 2008, the New York Giants and New York Jets ended talks with Allianz over naming rights for a new football stadium after public outcry over its business practices leading up to World War II. Allianz at the time sold life insurance to Jewish customers who were unable to cash their policies after the Nazis confiscated their personal documents. The company also insured infamous concentration camps such as Auschwitz. Allianz later paid partial restitution through the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims, though some Jewish advocates have said it's not enough.
Andy Rathbun and Frederick Melo of the Pioneer Press, a Forum News Service media partner, contributed to this report.