- (Photo: Reuters/Eric Miller)
As Minnesota officials get ready to choose a site for the new Vikings stadium, a Minneapolis church is protesting the relocation of the sport complex near to its historical building.
The Basilica of Saint Mary voiced its concerns Tuesday, before bids from several real estate holders for hosting rights of stadium were submitted Thursday – a deadline set by Governor Mark Dayton. As many as five locations, including three in Minneapolis, are being considered for the new stadium of the NFL team. However, it is still not remotely clear which one will be selected, according to local reports.
It appears that the Basilica administrators are adamant about authorities not selecting a site on Linden Avenue – located "a football's throw away" from its 100-year-old building holding a historic landmark status.
"While we support the Vikings and respect what the team means to our state, we have serious concerns about the proposal to locate the stadium just 300-feet away from our historic building," Father John Bauer, basilica’s rector said during a Tuesday press conference.
The building, established in 1914, was the first basilica built in America, according to its website. With over 6,300 families, most of the congregation drives in from the suburbs, Bauer said. Adding, that a stadium so close would "severely impact our Sunday worship schedule as well as greatly prohibit our ability to serve the community throughout the year.”
“I can't imagine how our thousands of Sunday worshippers would be able to compete with the more than 60,000 people who attend a Vikings game – there simply isn't that much room in this area and the traffic, congestion, tailgating and parking issues alone could be disastrous for our Sunday worship schedule," he stated.
The basilica also hosts hundreds of programs and events each year that would be adversely impacted by the stadium, the church complains.
“Not only is our parish made up of thousands who drive in from the suburbs, we are a refuge for the poor and a resource for the community,” Bauer said. “If a stadium is built a football's throw away from us, it will severely limit who will be able to get to us and how we can help them.”
Bauer has been reaching out to key stakeholders, including the governor and the City Council and other legislative leaders to voice the congregation’s concerns. He also sent a letter to all parishioners Tuesday, asking them to contact their legislator and city officials and express their discontent.
The administration claims the congregation had already suffered from the city development plans when an expressway was built across its neighborhood in the 1960s. The basilica then had to transform from a neighborhood parish into a destination parish, Bauer said in a statement. That change resulted in a huge loss of parishioners and even posed a threat to the ministry’s existence as membership dropped dramatically.
Since then, the basilica has rebuilt its membership and raised over $30 million for restoration efforts for the campus, Bauer said. Currently, Sunday Masses attract 2,000 to 3,000 people.
The stadium construction is viewed as a threat that might disperse the congregation again, the administration has suggested.
Meanwhile, the Vikings management reportedly said they prefer a $1.1 billion stadium in Ramsey County's Arden Hills, near Minneapolis, but the city is considering supporting the site near the basilica among others, according to Minneapolis Star Tribune.