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Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

Stadium noise variance raises ire of residents on social media

Posted on 06 February 2018 by Calvin

By JANE MCCLURE
A blanket sound level exemption for the new Allianz Field Major League Soccer stadium was set to return to the St. Paul City Council for a vote Feb. 7 at City Hall. If the exemption is adopted, home games, league events, exhibition games and city-sponsored events at the new stadium will not need sound level variances. Because the variance is in a use agreement approved previously between Minnesota United FC and city officials, it may be all over but the shouting.

Joe Spencer, who works on special projects for the St. Paul Department of Planning and Economic Development (PED), said the exemption to noise regulations is in the use agreement approved last year by the city and Minnesota United FC.

Allianz Field construction is underway at the northeast corner of Snelling and St. Anthony avenues, the former Metro Transit bus barn site and part of the former Midway Center property. It is expected to open to games early next year. Minnesota United typically plays 17 regular season games at home, if a look at recent schedules is any indication. Soccer games are on Saturday evenings, starting at 6:30 or 7pm and usually last two hours.

The first home game this year is Sat., Mar. 17. The last is Sun., Oct. 21.

Spencer called the exemption “simple and straightforward” and said it would “streamline” the event process for Allianz Field.

“It’s not expected to be needed or used a lot,” he said. Environmental studies conducted as part of stadium planning indicated that soccer games and other events wouldn’t be in violation of daytime sound level regulations. Nighttime noise limits kick in at 10pm. With soccer games typically starting at 7pm, it’s not expected that games would go later than 10pm. Later play would only happen due to inclement weather, a television schedule-related delay or overtime periods.

If a concert or fireworks display is planned, those would need variances and would have to go to the City Council for approval.
Despite many concerns raised about the exemption on social media and in calls to council members Dai Thao and Russ Stark, only one person attended a Jan. 17 council hearing to speak in opposition.

Hamline-Midway resident Stephanie Digby, who lives north of the stadium, was the only person to speak in opposition. “I’m going to be suffering from noise pollution,” she said. Digby said the variance feels discriminatory and that it is bringing further changes to what has been a quiet neighborhood.

“I feel there are many of us who have been completely ignored,” Digby said.

A layover was approved Jan. 17 to give Union Park District Council (UPDC) a chance to weigh in. The Jan. 22 snowstorm forced the council to cancel a neighborhood meeting to discuss noise concerns.
Stadium noise has been an issue in neighborhoods around Concordia University’s Seafoam Stadium. The sound from football games has carried as far north as Minnehaha Ave. in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood and south to Summit Ave. But those games end before 10pm.

“The assumption is that you essentially cannot quiet fans down,” Stark said of the soccer variance. Council members and Spencer noted that Allianz Field is designed in a way to mitigate sound. That is true of the stadium design as well as how the sound will be handled. Instead of large speakers at one end, as is the case at TCF Stadium at the University of Minnesota, Allianz Field is designed to have smaller-scale speakers that will be spread throughout the stadium.

Spencer said that the plan is to have Allianz Field be a “good neighbor” and mitigate sound as much as possible.

Questions had been raised as to whether or not the exemption would also apply to CHS Field in Lowertown, which is used by baseball teams including the St. Paul Saints. Spencer said that isn’t the case.