On Friday, July 24, the long-awaited report from the consultant hired to evaluate the feasibility and economic impact of a multipurpose facility that can be used for sporting events, including the New Mexico United professional soccer team, was finally released by the City. The study was originally supposed to be released in June.
The link to the entire 356 page feasibility study is here:
The New Mexico United soccer team currently shares the city-owned Isotopes Park with the stadium’s primary tenant, the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes baseball team. New Mexico United has become highly successful often attracting 10,000 to 15,000 fans to it games. One major caveat is that the team is in need of a permanent location to continue in the league and it cannot own the stadium.
FOUR LOCATIONS IDENTIFIED
Denver-based CAA ICON, the Denver based company that performed the study, looked specifically at four sites that would accommodate a 10,000 to 12,000 seat multipurpose facility:
1. The area near 12th Street and Interstate 40
2. The Coal and Broadway Street area
3. The Second Street and Iron Street area
4. The Railyards
Editor’s Note: It is likely that the Railyards’ Master Development Plan prevents the Railyards from having a soccer stadium located on the site.
CAA ICON identified the Coal and Broadway Street area and the Second Street and Iron Street area as the two top “preferred sites”. The estimated cost would between $65 million and $70 million just for construction and not land acquisition.
The financial evaluation and feasibility study considered several factors including land size availability, zoning, ownership and parking. The city owns parts of each preferred site but the acreage needed at each location is mostly privately owned.
According to the report that includes a projected financial earning analysis, the stadium could generate new net direct spending of $10.3 million a year. The financial projection does not include indirect spending or economic activity related to construction.
CAA ICON reported that New Mexico United would be the venue’s primary tenant with a 24-event annual game calendar dominated by the soccer club, including 16 regular-season and two preseason games. CAA ICON interviewed potential stadium users, which included local event promoters, and reported that top acts usually bypass Albuquerque or have a better alternative.
Other likely events include high school sporting events and concerts with estimated attendance of 5,500. The study noted that the stadium would probably not be a popular destination for musical performers.
The CAA ICON financial analysis makes no recommendation as to how the city can pay for the stadium. The city does have $7.5 million New Mexico legislative appropriations for the project.
In releasing the study, city officials cautioned that decision has been made as to final location and a larger public dialogue must now occur.
Albuquerque Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Rael had this to say:
“This study is a key part of our due diligence as we explore the possibility of a multi-use facility. … We’re glad to have the results of the study so we can discuss the findings with the community, make proper considerations, and initiate next steps.”
NEW MEXICO UNITED REACTION
Peter Trevisani, New Mexico United’s president and owner, called the two preferred locations “phenomenal sites” as the club has always desired a Downtown home. Trevisani had this to say:
“I think it is phenomenal. … Having it be a pillar of the revitalization of downtown Albuquerque, showing the vitality of New Mexico is exactly what we should be doing, and [downtown] feels like a great spot to me. I am pumped up. … The team is pumped up. The coaches are pumped up. It matters a lot. … This is a great step. It is an important step. There is a lot of work to do.”
“The issue [with ownership] … is we’re not allowed to own any of the stadium – we’re just a tenant. The stadium would need to be owned by the city and since we can’t own the stadium, we’re not really in a position to buy a percentage of it like you might buy a percentage of a company. … The city is hurting, and this is the kind of project along with things like rail trail and ‘First Friday’ art walks … that add up to a major change.”
Trevisani had this to say regarding all 4 locations:
“Right now just making sure we are in touch with those communities because it will impact people’s lives. I think in a positive, but for some maybe not so much if you have a house right there. … So we have to talk to everybody and do the best we can to not do any harm.”
Trevisani said New Mexico United will explore ways to support the project to make it financially feasible for the city but want to see the city’s plans first.
During the 2020 and 2021 legislative sessions, the New Mexico legislature earmarked $9 million for the project including $4 million from Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham this past session. The cost of the $400,000 analysis was paid for by state money secured in 2020.
Links to quoted source material are here:
KELLER TAKES TO THE FIELD TO PROMOTE PUBLIC VOTE
Ever since Mayor Tim Keller assumed office on December 1, 2017, he has taken photo ops and press conferences to all new levels. Keller has attended protest rallies to speak at, attended marches and political protests, attended heavy metal concerts to introduce the band, traveled to the southern border with his wife to leave a teddy bear where migrant children were being held, run in track meets, suiting up to participate in exhibition football games as the quarterback, participating in soccer games and enjoying and reliving his high school glory days as the St. Pius High School quarterback and posting pictures and videos on his FACEBOOK page. Keller has always been a big promoter of the New Mexico United team, but when the financial feasibility study was release on Friday, on July 23, it was done so by Chief Operations Officer Lawrence Rael with nothing said by Keller. That was no accident in an election year and Keller was looking for a much bigger crowd and he got it the next day.
On Saturday evening, July 24, Mayor Tim Keller took part in pregame tailgate parties and then took to the field of Isotopes Park during halftime where the New Mexico United Soccer Team was playing the El Paso Locomotive team. In a campaign style speech for his re election before a crowd of tailgate party goers, Mayor Tim Keller stood with New Mexico United owner Peter Trevisani to deliver the news of the results of the feasibility analysis for the stadium. To the crowd of 10,000 fans, Keller announced he will send a resolution on Monday, July 26 to City Council to get a bond proposal placed on the November 2 ballot for a new, publicly funded downtown soccer stadium with New Mexico United, a privately owned team, as the primary tenant.
Keller boldly announced:
“Tonight is a historic night for our city and for the United and I think you know why. You might have seen we’ve been doing some homework on that question you’ve been asking me for the last two years – when are we getting a stadium? We are sending a resolution to the council on Monday to put a bond for a new stadium on the ballot this November.”
“You all have earned a stadium. … So, New Mexicans and Burqueños, this can be our choice in November. And I know with the [team booster’s] Curse’s help, and with City Council’s help, we’re going to build a new home for the United right here in the Duke City. … So we’re going to win tonight. And then that initiative is going to win in November. And then we’re going to keep on winning for New Mexico!”
No doubt Keller wants the New Mexico United fan base to not only vote for the stadium funding bonds but as well as himself for another 4 year term as Mayor.
Four City Councilors stood next to Keller where he made the same announcement at a pregame free fan giveaway.
PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR SOCCER STADIUM
Brian Sanderoff of Research and Polling recently did a survey for the city that found 67% of voters approve of building a stadium. Sanderoff had this to say:
“Our mayors pushed hard proposals to build downtown arenas. And, in both cases, ultimately, our leaders backed down from those proposals. … One thing that makes this different is the soccer portion of it is an anchor.”
City Councillor Pat Davis said the city is going to use the success of Isotopes Park as a model for the soccer stadium and said:
“I think the difference between some of those far-flung ideas from politicians of the past, whether they wanted to do it, build it and they will come. … What we’ve done is the United is here. We’re filling the Isotope stadium. We will use some creative financing to lower the cost to taxpayers and put the burden on the teams to share revenue. ”
City Councillor Pat Davis talks like he has lived here all of his life but only moved here in 2004 from Washington, DC. It’s doubtful Davis has had an original idea in his years as an elected official.
The city issued a press release that made it clear that the downtown stadium will be a “multi-use” facility. The city news release also stated voters will be asked to approve a $50 million bond proposal for the stadium. According to Keller, taxes will not be increased to build the stadium but expiring bond debt will be renewed.
Keller acknowledged that most of the funding will be government funding and had this to say:
“… we’re open to a private – public partnership. We’re … gonna make sure the [city funds] … the minimum amount required for a stadium. But if there’s additional extras — how big it is and how nice it is, that’ll depend on other funds or matching funds from other governments and possibly other folks involved in the stadium who may or may not be with the team.”
As far as which of the 4 proposed locations, Keller said the chosen location will not be identified and said:
“Because of the length of real estate transactions and so forth, we know it’ll hopefully be one of those four (locations), but we do know some of those lands have owners that may or may not want to sell. So we can’t be 100% sure about any location. That’s just the recommendations from the consultant.”
Chief Operation’s Officer Lawrence Rael had this to say about location:
“It would be premature to buy any property or make a final decision until the voters say yes because you need the revenues to build the stadium. And so until they say, yes, we’re right now just looking at all the sites making sure they work, and then waiting for the voters to make a decision.”
Link to quoted source materials are here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Now the hard part begins which is getting public support for a worthwhile project that will be a major step in revitalizing downtown. For the last 50 years, City Hall and virtually all Albuquerque Mayors have been fascinated and enamored with trying to revitalize the Downtown Central area. All Mayors wanted to bring back Downtown Central of its heyday of the 1950’s and 1960’s where it was the center of commercial, business and retail and entertainment activity.
First there was “urban renewal” of the 1970’s with the new convention center built, followed by the Festival Market Place, followed by the Convention Center expansion with building the Hyatt Regency and the adjoining office building, then the rejected “Performing Arts Center”, then the 4th Street Mall concept, then the attempt to build the new Isotopes’ Baseball stadium downtown, then the convention center and civic plaza remodeling, then the ART Bus project. Each time it was a Mayor involved trying to leave his lasting mark on the city with his own legacy project. You can review Central Downtown revitalization over the years at this link”
COMBINE TWO SITES AND BUILD MULTIPURPOSE ENCLOSED ARENA
Since the very beginning, New Mexico United has had plans for a new soccer stadium and have always looked at downtown. The team envisions a 10,000 to 15,000 seat stadium, costing between $50 million to $100 million. The fact that it is going to be a city owned facility, Mayor Keller and the City Council need to concentrate on a development that will truly be in the best interest of not only United New Mexico fans but also the city as a whole.
When you examine the 4 facility renderings in all 4 locations, one major finding of the study is it will be an exclusive “outdoor soccer sports facility” . New Mexico United would be the venue’s primary tenant with a 24-event annual game calendar dominated by the soccer club, including 16 regular-season and two preseason games. CAA ICON interviewed potential stadium users, which included local event promoters, and reported that top acts usually bypass Albuquerque or have a better alternative. The State owned Tingley Coliseum has long been viewed as a substandard aging facility suited for rodeos and “monster truck events and no longer able to attract major entertainment events.
It is pure political rhetoric in an election year for Keller to tell New Mexico United fans “You all have earned a stadium”. The only ones that have “earned” anything and will wind up paying for a publicly financed stadium is the general voting public deserving of a multipurpose venue that more can enjoy. Ever since the round domed Albuquerque Civic Auditorium was demolished in the 1970’s, Albuquerque has had to rely on UNM facilities, such as the PIT or even Popejoy Hall for live entertainment venues.
Two of the 4 identified locations are in fact adjacent to each other: the Coal and Broadway location and the Second and Iron location with the city owning a large portion of both locations. An option the city should seriously consider is to combine both adjacent sites and build the soccer field and an indoor facility or even combine both as one 15,000 roofed multipurpose facility with United New Mexico being the main anchor tenant.
MAYOR KELLER AND FUNDING ON NOVEMBER BALLOT
The fact Mayor Tim Keller is seeking a second term and will be on the same ballot as the funding for the stadium cannot be overlooked. No doubt Keller will be using the new soccer stadium as a project only he can get built. Mayor Tim Keller and the City Council ostensibly agreeing to a public vote for financing reflects that with any luck they have finally learned something from the disastrous ART Bus project that cost $130 million down central and so many other downtown revitalization projects that were forced down the general public’s throats and failed over the years without a public vote. When that happens, elected officials lose credibility, create resentment and perhaps even lose elections.
Another major point that cannot be overlooked is the Garcia family, owners of the Garcia Automotive Group, have a stake in the New Mexico United professional soccer team and also own significant parcels of commercial real estate in the downtown and old town area, including in the vicinity of the 12th and I-40 cite location. A breakdown of the larger donations to Keller’s “Albuquerque One Foundation” revealed that the Garcia Automotive Group was the single largest donor and donating $50,000. Further a measured finance committee has been formed to support Mayor Tim Keller’s bid for a second 4-year term. Campaign finance report filed with the city clerk’s office reflect that Ed Garcia and Toby Garcia, who are listed as with Garcia Automotive Group, both donated $7,500 each for a total of $15,000 to Keller’s measured finance committee.
On June 7 it was reported the City Council voted to approve Mayor Keller’s request for the “sale and lease” of the historic Rosenwald Building for $360,000 in a “private bid” to build condos. In 2009, the city had purchased the historic 42,000-square-foot building for $1.7 million. It is Garcia family members who are the principal’s of the limited liability corporation that purchased the Rosenwald Building. What needs to be disclosed is how much of the land or adjacent land where the 4 proposed stadium locations is owned by the Garcia family members or any one of their corporations. What should be considered is the city asking for land donations from the private sector, including the Garcia family.
Building the soccer field at 12th and I-40 will no doubt increase real property values in the area as well as the Indian Cultural Center owned by the 19 Indian Pueblos and at least 3 major, well known private landowners including the Saw Mill area developer, making the location highly competitive to the point it will make it the top contender as the landowners in the area make a strong pitch for the location, especially to Keller in an election year.
NEW MEXICO UNITED’S BEST LAID PLANS
United CEO Peter Trevisani has said in the past he is looking at what worked in other cities with new fields like Colorado Springs. He says it’s a good example of how a stadium can revitalize a neighborhood. He is right and people should listen.
From review of the CAA ICON, it is more likely than not the stadium will end up in the heart of downtown Albuquerque. The difference between the proposed new soccer stadium and all other failed proposed projects is the New Mexico United has a tremendous and dedicated fan based and public support with unmistakable momentum to get the project done. What the City Council should decide on is one specific site in order gain further support from the general public from the get go.
The new stadium is one major project that has the most potential to finally change and encourage development of the downtown area. City and State elected officials have any number of ways to fund the project including capital improvement allocations, general obligation bonds, industrial revenue bonds. Mayor Keller, the City Council, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and New Mexico legislators need to do whatever they can to promote the project.
A big mistake would be to try to do the project on the cheap to benefit only a select sports fan base when so much more could be accomplished.