Minnesota United is altering the playing surface at Allianz Field. It will still be grass, but with built-in support.
The Loons announced Monday they have begun the process of installing a GrassMax "hybrid stitch system," which will be completed by month's end. They play Wednesday night at home against the L.A. Galaxy.
The field conditions have been a concern since $250 million Allianz opened in 2019. The team replaced the grass that year, and there were new challenges this year after the United States men's national team played there in February's frigid cold.
"GrassMax systems is 100 percent natural grass cover reinforced with synthetic fibers," the Loons said in their press release. "The fibers stabilize the root zone of the pitch and increase the resistance of the grass to damage, limiting divots and ensuring a more consistently level playing surface.
"The system is guaranteed to last for at least 10 years, and the playing characteristics of the pitch are identical to a perfect natural pitch."
The Loons noted that the grass hybrid system is the same one used at soccer venues such as Maracana Stadium in Brazil and for English Premier League teams such as West Ham (London Stadium), Leicester City (King Power Stadium) and Leeds United (Elland Road).
Minnesota United CEO Shari Ballard said in the news release that the team made the upgrade to "ensure the greatest level of consistency, stability and quality throughout Minnesota's changing seasons. We are continually looking for ways to improve the experience for our fans and our players, and given the incredible growth of soccer in our community, we are excited about the impact this will have on the durability of field."
Ryan Moy, the Loons' head groundskeeper, added: "The technology is proven, widely used in European leagues and very much the preferred surface for FIFA."
Allianz included multimillion-dollar, state-of-the-art drainage and heating systems underneath the field grass when it opened in April 2019. The club also invested in large grow lights that can be positioned anywhere around the field to help grass to grow better.
The field had issues from the first season that often included large chunks of grass coming up after a player made a hard sliding tackle in pursuit of the ball. L.A. Galaxy superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic memorably picked up one of those chunks that season and threw it back toward the divot that had just come out of the field.
The club installed new grass on the entire field at regular season's end, and three weeks later a college football game and the Loons' first playoff game against the Galaxy were played on consecutive weekend days in October 2019.
The United States and Honduras played a World Cup qualifier in February, in single-digit temperatures. The Loons started play March 5 at home, and early in the season coach Adrian Heath mentioned that the field needed improvement, adding he believed it would get better as summer approached.
Staff writer Jerry Zgoda contributed to this report.