It was the first or second game after Allianz Field opened, Jeff Shaller said, when his battle against the stadium and soccer fans began.
"So, a guy pulls right in and parks and I say, 'Sir, you're in my driveway,' and he says, 'So?' " said Shaller, who has lived just on the south side of Interstate 94 for 30 years. "It's been goofballs driving through my neighborhood ever since."
When Allianz opened in August 2019, it created quite the buzz in St. Paul and its surrounding neighborhood too. And, as it turned out, plenty of angst. Over parking. Over traffic. Over noise. It was no different Wednesday, just before kickoff for the Major League Soccer All-Star Game.
As dozens of fans strolled towards the stadium across the freeway overpass, some wearing Loons gear while others sported jerseys of Mexican teams, Shaller did as he has done for every Minnesota United home game ever since: He sat in a folding chair in his driveway, scowling. What does he do?
"Make sure they don't block my sidewalk. Make sure they don't hit my car," he said. "Or throw bottles or do crazy [stuff] like that."
Actually, the scene before Wednesday's game — pitting MLS all-stars against the all-stars from Mexico's Liga MX — was different. Signs now warn motorists that parking is allowed in the area only by permit. Unlike years past, that meant much less traffic in the hour before the game and many more open spots on the street.
In the stadium's first season, cars would speed through this normally quiet neighborhood near a stadium with little on-site parking, looking to snag open spots. That's what Jericho Tabor, a season ticket holder from Minneapolis, used to do. Once, he parked a little past the edge of Donna Elson's driveway.
"She was out doing yard work, and she walked over to me. She said, 'I see you're overlapping my driveway. I don't care, but you're going to get a ticket,' " Tabor said.
The U.S. Postal Service employee and the retired nurse started talking. A few minutes later, she offered to let Tabor park in her driveway — for free. A friendship started between Tabor's family and Elson. Last season, they gave her a United scarf.
Elson, who was sweeping her driveway before Wednesday's game, said that a lot of the things neighbors feared about a soccer stadium in their midst have not come to pass.
"They're mostly families," she said of fans. "When the game's over, they go home."
For Wes Burdine, owner of the Black Hart bar on University Avenue near Allianz, the stadium has been an improvement to the area and draws fans from across the world.
"Games like tonight have brought people here who never would have come to St. Paul," he said.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber in an interview Tuesday praised the stadium and what it has meant to St. Paul.
"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," he said. "It's awesome, really awesome."
But Shaller was having none of it. The man who once suffered park-and-ride drivers blocking his driveway and hogging the parking in front of his house now fends off soccer fans — all-star game or no all-star game.
He watched as a silver Chevy filled with fans parked next to the curb across the street from his house. No permit in sight, a group of young men emerged and joined the caravan of fans walking towards the stadium.
"'Oh, look, a spot just opened up. A miracle!' " Shaller scoffed. "It's a joke."