State Senator Bill Tallman Guest Column: Build A Downtown Multi Purpose Arena In ABQ Using Portion Of Historic $3.6 Billion State Revenue Surplus   

New Mexico State Senator  Bill Tallman represents Senate District 18 which includes Albuquerque. He was first elected to the New Mexico Senate in 2016. Senator Tallman is the Vice Chair of the Senate Health & Public Affairs Committee, Vice Chair of the Transportation Infrastructure Revenue Subcommittee and a member of the Senate Tax, Business & Transportation Committee. Tallman earned a Bachelor of Arts from Syracuse University in 1968 and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Cincinnati in 1972.  Senator Tallman has extensive experience in municipal government  having served as deputy city manager of Santa Fe, New Mexico. He has also worked as city manager of Norwich, Connecticut and Hamilton, Ohio both of which own and operate their gas and electric utilities. He has served as the Assistant County Manager of Schenectady, New York.  After relocating to New Mexico to become Deputy City Manager of Santa Fe, he remained in the area and ran for a seat in the New Mexico Senate.

Below is a guest opinion column submitted for publication on this blog by Democrat New Mexico State Senator Bill G. Tallman.

EDITOR’S DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in this guest column are those of State Senator Bill G. Tallman  and do not necessarily reflect those of the blog. The Senator has not been paid compensation to publish the guest column and has given his  consent to publish on


“On December 12, the Legislative Finance Committee released its Consensus Revenue Estimate for fiscal year 2024 which begins July 1, 2023. It was reported that New Mexico’s revenues have ballooned to historical levels because of the state’s revenues from oil and gas production.  The new estimates released project the state will have an astonishing $3.6 billion in “new” money available for the budget year that starts on July 1, 2023.

 The 60-day legislative session is scheduled to begin on January 17, 2023. Discussions are seriously underway on how to spend the record-high revenue during the 60-day legislative session. Top budget and finance officials in Lujan Grisham’s administration are urging lawmakers to use the windfall on one-time major capital improvement projects. Funding for ongoing programs need to be kept to a minimum due to the inevitable decreases in revenues from the oil and gas industry.   

 What all too often is totally ignored because lack of revenues are major capital outlay projects that can be transformative to a community.  Given the sure magnitude of the surplus, it is likely municipalities, citizens and interest groups will be asking for funding for special capital projects such as swimming pools, parks, recreation facilities, sport facilities, and entertainment venues.  

 A modern multi-purpose arena located in Downtown Albuquerque is such a transformative project that will improve the overall quality of life. A modern multi-purpose arena belongs Downtown. Over the last 25 years  I have literally visited 25 big city arenas including  Cincinnati, Chicago, Indy,  Charlotte, Nashville, New Orleans, St Louis, etc  They are all located in Downtowns.  There are good solid reasons why all these big city arenas are located in Downtowns. When these arenas  empty out the atmosphere on the streets is electric and very exciting.

 New Mexico has a population of slightly over one million people residing within 50-60 miles of downtown Albuquerque. According to my research , Albuquerque is the only metro area with a population of a million or more without a modern multi-purpose arena. The UNM Pit is a single-purpose facility, Tingley is a 65-year-old antiquated “barn”, and the Santa Ana Arena is undersized (thus not able to attract larger functions or big-name entertainers) located on a two-lane road 20 miles from the center of population.

 The consultants engaged to determine the feasibility of the rejected soccer stadium projected that the stadium would only be used on 24 dates annually, whereas a muti-purpose arena could have a minimum of 100 events and as many as 150 if managed by competent and professional personnel. A multi-purpose facility would literally be “multi-purpose”: concerts, minor league hockey, NCAA regional basketball tournament games (the PIT no longer meets the NCAA requirements), large faith-based services, Gathering of Nations, arena football, exhibitions, trade shows, tractor pulls, indoor soccer, and nationally-televised boxing/martial arts matches. Also, Albuquerque could attract larger conventions if we had a nearby facility that could seat more attendees during plenary sessions.

 Several times a week, big name entertainers pass thru Albuquerque in their multi-million-dollar tour buses. If we had a modern, large arena seating a minimum of 15,000, mega star entertainers would include Albuquerque on their itinerary.

 During my tenure as the City Manager of Moline, Illinois (Headquarters of Deere & Co.), I was a member of the Quad City Civic Center Authority that planned and constructed a 12,000-seat arena. This arena operated in the black for 15 years until the Great Recession without ever promising this to taxpayers. Even though that metro area population was just shy of 400,000, our first event sold out in 45 minutes.

 Such a facility would be “transformational” for the following reasons:

–   New Mexicans would not have to travel to Denver, Phoenix, Austin, and Dallas for big-name entertainment.

–   It would help to enhance Albuquerque as a convention site and tourist destination. 

–   The ABQ Chamber of Commerce states in a recent publication that successful downtowns include a “play environment” that includes shopping, entertainment, and open spaces. The article goes on to state that more activity downtown would help to revitalize Downtown; 80 to 90% of big city arenas are located downtown.

–   Young people are leaving our region not only for lack of jobs, but they are attracted to cities such as Austin, Phoenix, and Denver, all of which have a ‘big city’ atmosphere.

The estimated cost of such a facility would be in the range of $150-$250 million. $200 million would be just 5.5% of the $3.6 billion the LFC is projecting the state has available for construction during the 2022-23 budget year.

 Also, I believe that alternative uses of the federal funding windfall – other than funding earmarked for brick and mortar – should be discussed through meaningful public input. Serious consideration for the use of our one time federal funding should be given to critical issues such as affordable housing and behavioral health. Sen. Ortiz y Pino and I have recommended to the Senate Democrat Caucus that we direct $100 million towards a transformational statewide behavioral health program.

 The 2023 legislative session could very well turn out to be a “once in a century opportunity” because of the buget surplus to solve many of the state’s problems that have plagued it for so many decades.  It should also be viewed as an opportunity to build transformative facilities that are needed and that will have a lasting impact on the state’s quality of life for decades to come.”

 The link to a related Dinelli blog article is here:

State Budget Officials Say Use Staggering $3.6 Billion Surplus In State Revenue For Transformative Capital Projects; Gov. MLG Buys Into Republican Short Sighted Politcal Dogma Of Using Surplus For Meager Tax Cuts And Rebates With Short Term Benefit

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.