Minnesota governor rejects plan for stadium near basilica
The Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, Minn. Credit: J. Stephen Conn (CC BY-NC 2.0)
The Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, Minn. Credit: J. Stephen Conn (CC BY-NC 2.0)
By Benjamin Mann
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.- Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton does not want the Vikings' new football stadium to be built near the Basilica of Saint Mary, where it was seen as a potentially serious threat to parish life.

“We are grateful that Governor Dayton considered our concerns and valued the work we do in making a decision to remove the Linden Avenue and Farmers Market sites from the list of potential sites for the Vikings Stadium,” officials at the basilica said in an online statement. 

Church representatives said they “support the Vikings staying in Minnesota” but had “very serious concerns about the impacts of building a stadium and event center so close to the basilica.”

“I understood their concerns, and they were very valid,” Gov. Dayton told the Associated Press on Jan. 25, following his two recent meetings with the basilica's rector Father John Bauer.

The priest reportedly told the governor that the basilica would consider legal action against plans for a stadium in its vicinity, due to concerns over impacts on ministries, parking, and other effects on the historic church.

Dayton now says a new stadium at the location of the Vikings' existing Metrodome is “the only viable option,” if the team is to receive public funding for the project in the 2012 legislative session.

State senator Julie Rosen, the stadium bill's main sponsor, also says the Metrodome site is the most realistic choice. A third proposed site, in a suburb of St. Paul, would require a sales tax increase.

In a Jan. 24 column for the Minnesota Star Tribune, Rev. Bauer explained why it was not in the community's best interest to build a stadium only 300 feet from Basilica of St. Mary.

“Leaders need to look beyond the numbers and consider the negative human impact that will occur,” the basilica's rector wrote.

He explained that thousands of people obtain food, clothing, and other assistance from the church's ministries each year.

“Not only will this location affect the 6,500 households that call this parish their spiritual home, but it will also jeopardize our efforts to bring stability and provide a lifeline to those who are most in need.”

During the 1960s, the basilica temporarily lost a large proportion of its parishioners due to highway construction that nearly forced its closure. Fr. Bauer insisted it should not face the same kind of threat permanently, from the hundreds of stadium event days that would take place only 100 yards away.

“Thousands of activities fill the calendar each year at the basilica, involving parishioners and the community we serve,” he wrote. “From liturgies to our employment ministry, from concerts to outreach programs, from the Basilica Block Party to art exhibits, the life of a thriving community is at stake.”

On the day Fr. Bauer's editorial ran, Gov. Dayton said he believed the Metrodome site held promise, even though the Vikings' owners would prefer a change. Local NBC affiliate KARE quoted him as saying the site could be made “very attractive,” with “the kind of investment to build a world class stadium.”

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