B-dubs plans to move into U

The wings giant is working for approval to move into the historic Station 19.

Katherine Lymn

Buffalo Wild Wings fans will be able to do the spicy “Blazin’ Challenge” on campus as early as December if the chicken wings chain’s efforts to bring a restaurant to Stadium Village proceed as planned.
The chain, famous for its sports bar atmosphere and fiery sauces, has plans to move into the Station 19 building adjacent to TCF Bank Stadium.
Representatives of the company met with City Councilmember Cam Gordon last week to discuss the possibility, and they stressed their commitment to avoid serving alcohol to minors, Gordon said.
Demolition inside Station 19 will likely begin next month, and if all goes well, the restaurant will be open for business by mid-December, said Sue Benson, Buffalo Wild Wings regional manager.
To get city approval, the establishment had to agree to be classified as a restaurant and bar, which means having at least 60 percent of its sales come from food, Gordon said. Buffalo Wild Wings officials told Gordon approximately 75 percent of its profit comes from food sales.
However, the Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association has concerns about “more and more” establishments with liquor licenses in the area, Gordon said.
Benson said she and her colleagues submitted the liquor license application last week. Obtaining that, she said, is “the final piece of the puzzle.”
If the license is not granted, the restaurant will not move into Station 19, she said, though she added there is no doubt that it will be approved.
Extensive renovation of the building will not happen until the license is secured to avoid investing too much into the building without a guarantee of moving in, Benson said.
Since Station 19 is a Minneapolis historical landmark, representatives from the building met with the city’s Heritage Preservation Commission to seek approval for changes to the building. The changes included modifications to awnings, signage and an update to the patio, said city planner John Smoley, with the city’s Preservation and Design team.
Since Buffalo Wild Wings will likely stick around for a while, Gordon said it may actually help preserve the historic landmark because it will be guaranteed consistent income and upkeep.
Station 19 has received all the necessary approvals from the HPC, Smoley said. The approval process ensured these changes will not “damage the building’s ability to communicate its historical significance,” he said.
Built in 1893, Station 19 was originally a fire station and used horse-drawn equipment until 1922. Famous for its connection to the horse-drawn vehicle era and its contribution to fire protection, the building was also the birthplace of “kittenball,” an early variation of softball, Smoley said.
Since its first purpose as a fire station, Station 19 played home to restaurants from 1977 to 1999, which meant the building had a basement kitchen, Smoley said. Most recently, Sparky’s Bar and Grill occupied the space from 1995 to 1999, said U Liquors owner George Medich, who owned Sparky’s.
Over time, the building also housed various offices. Smoley said Station 19 Architects’ offices will stay in the building on the second level.
Few problems with past restaurants eased Stadium Village businesses’ concerns about a restaurant there now, said Stadium Village Commercial Association President Nancy Rose Pribyl.
Pribyl said neither she nor her colleagues could remember a negative impact from having a restaurant in Station 19 in the past.
Having the Station 19 space vacant is also not good for the community, Pribyl said.
Benson said she received support from the SVCA because Buffalo Wild Wings will “stop students from going to Dinkytown as much.”
Having more restaurants in walking distance of campus and providing more dining and drinking options will make Stadium Village more of a destination, Pribyl said.
Benson said the restaurant will employ up to 100 people for hourly positions.
Gordon expects the restaurant to get full city approval within the next month.