Reusse: Grab a bar stool and savor Basilica vs. Vikings debate

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 19, 2012 - 6:29 AM

The team's preferred Minneapolis site for its new home faces challenges -- not the least of which will be how it affects that magnifcent church. Just ask Louie from Lee's.


Louie Sirian, owner of Lee’s Liquor Lounge, near the proposed Linden Ave./Basilica site for a new Vikings stadium.

Photo: David Joles, Star Tribune file

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Lou Sirian has heard conflicting reports on what will happen to his historic establishment, Lee's Liquor Lounge, if the hurdles can be completed and a new Vikings stadium winds up on the north side of Interstate Hwy. 394 in downtown Minneapolis.

"The mayor's office tells me we'll still be here,'' Sirian said. "Other people tell me we'll be part of the land they use. So, I don't have a clue.

"I talked to the people from the church. They are all upset about it. And I can see their point.''

The church is the Basilica of St. Mary, a structure more historic than Louie's saloon, and with property owners who also can muster more political clout.

The greatest blunder in the history of stadium marketing occurred when the backers of this location allowed it to become known as the "Basilica site.''

They should have termed it the "North of 394'' site, or the "Scrubland and Replaceable Buildings'' site.

This third Minneapolis site -- along with the Metrodome and the Farmers Market -- was revealed in mid-November. It was termed the Linden Ave. site then, and again lately, but it's too late.

In public conversation, it remains the Basilica site, and sends the message that stadium supporters are messing with a 100-year-old Roman Catholic cathedral that was blessed as a Basilica by Pope Pius XI in 1926.

The Vikings hung tough with Arden Hills as long as possible, but last week they admitted that Minneapolis would be OK. The team also said that its preferred site was across the freeway from the Basilica.

On Wednesday, Gov. Mark Dayton talked of the financing flaws in all of the stadium proposals, and then backed the Linden Ave. location, if the problems could be worked out.

Minneapolis coming up with its share of the required public money is Problem 1a. Mayor R.T. Rybak has spent his career nesting with a majority of devoted lefties on the Minneapolis City Council, but now he has to get a few of those same people to back a diversion of taxes that will provide a football stadium and thus benefit a billionaire.

Good luck with that, R.T.

And even if he can find the money, there's Problem 1b: the Basilica. That's why Rybak backed the Metrodome site. He didn't want to have to fight the financing battle with his City Council, and also battle local leaders of the Holy Roman Church.

"Have you seen the drawing of the Vikings stadium?'' Sirian said. "It towers over the Basilica.''

The issue of Sunday traffic jams and Mass-goers competing with Vikings fans for parking spots can be addressed. The issue of 60 wonderful stained-glass windows surviving months of heavy construction can be addressed.

What can't be solved is that the Basilica's dome -- the magnificent sight that now greets people arriving in Minneapolis from a couple of directions -- would be dwarfed by the roof of a football stadium.

For years, no one had the guts to mention the Linden Ave. site as a possibility because of the proximity to the Basilica. That's why we kept hearing about the Farmers Market site.

Except, it now seems that the Farmers Market site, down there lower on the hill, has an issue with the grade of the land.

That has led the Vikings and downtown business leaders, and now the governor, pointing at the site next to 394. Everyone's back to calling it the Linden Ave. site, but that doesn't change the fact the Basilica of St. Mary is right there, a few lanes of freeway to the south.

"I don't know if I'll be here or be gone,'' Sirian said. "If they take that little parking lot across the street from me, they're going to put me out of business anyway.''

Louie was very concerned about the little gravel parking lot when we talked back in 2009. He also was certain Target Field would do nothing for his business.

"You were right,'' Sirian said. "The Twins fans have been great. Coming in here before and after games ... they've been a life saver.''

Plus, you're in your 80s, Louie, and look great. Health is good, right?

"Ah, not really,'' he said. "You know that old saying about 'the golden years' and them being great. That's a bunch of bull.''

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500ESPN.

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