Back to the lab for the short term, back to the drawing board for a permanent focus.
Such is the current outlook for New Mexico United following Albuquerque voters last month’s rejection of a bond issue to fund a downtown stadium for the USL Championship football franchise.
United owner and CEO Peter Trevisani said the club still intend to build a football-specific stadium in the Albuquerque area and have no plans to relocate. “We are not going anywhere,” he said.
For now, however, NMU is working to expand its stadium-sharing agreement to Isotopes Park – aka the Lab.
United’s three-year sublease to play home games at the city-owned baseball park expired after the 2021 season. The Albuquerque Triple-A Isotopes are the primary tenant of this facility, and Trevisani has said discussions with Isotopes Chairman Ken Young regarding the extension of the sublet are ongoing.
“Ken and (Isotopes CEO John Traub) have been great partners and we’ve had great discussions,” Trevisani said in a recent interview. “We are confident that we will have a place to play next year and beyond.”
Trevisani’s confidence is evidenced by the fact that United recently started selling season tickets for the 2022 season. NMU communications director David Carl said early sales have been strong.
Negotiating a return to Isotopes Park was always going to be part of the club’s program for next season. A new stadium would not have been ready even if the recent bond issue had passed.
Yet Isotopes Park cannot serve as a permanent home for New Mexico United. The USL Championship has set 2026 – the year the World Cup arrives in the United States – as a goal to have all of its clubs as primary tenants in specific football stadiums.
Will McClaran, director of strategic communications for the USL Championship, said the league expects to reach its 2026 goal. Louisville, Colorado Springs and Phoenix have opened new stadiums in the past two seasons and Oklahoma City voters recently approved a civic project that includes a new site for that city’s USLC franchise (which will be on hiatus in 2022, as the stadium it used in 2021 will be under renovation and unavailable).
McClaran said the league is working with United to explore alternatives to the stadiums.
“Every market and every project is different, but the goal (of the USL Championship) remains the same – to be one of the top 10 championships in the world – and our clubs must be the primary tenant of a specific football stadium to be there. achieve, ”McClaran said in an email to the Journal. “… As a league we are on the right track to achieve this and are confident that New Mexico United, with one of the largest and most passionate fan bases in the country, will also achieve their goal of a stadium. specific to football. “
New Mexico United ranked second behind Louisville in home attendance last season, with an reported average of 7,727 fans per game despite the lack of season ticket sales and pandemic restrictions. United have said they have imposed a 75% capacity limit (9,250 fans) for much of the 2021 campaign.
McClaran refrained from saying that clubs that are not set up as primary tenants in football-specific stadiums by 2026 will have to relocate, but he has made USLC’s expectations clear.
“If this cannot be achieved, clubs must make tough decisions that are in their best interests to have long term success,” said McClaran, “and this may include evaluating relocation options.”
Trevisani believes the planning and construction of the stadium is a three to five year project and said he is considering many options. Offshoring is not one of them.
Trevisani mentioned several venues for a potential stadium project, including the West Side of Albuquerque and the Mesa del Sol area, where United have changing rooms and training facilities. Trevisani said local casinos have also expressed interest in a potential partnership, but said those talks are preliminary. He declined to name the casinos.
Key considerations for any stadium site include available parking, which was one of the objections raised by residents of the inner city corridor opposed to the recent bond issue. United have not ruled out a stadium in the city center, Trevisani said, but the club are not pursuing any of the four venues recommended by a recent feasibility study.
“Ideally, we want a place where there’s a lot of parking and where we can have mostly weekend games,” Trevisani said. “A lot of people can’t come to midweek games, so we would like to build a place where we don’t have conflicts with weekend concerts or other events.”
Trevisani said United hope to build a stadium that can accommodate 10 to 12,000 fans. USL Championship standards require a minimum of 5,000 seats.
When it comes to funding, Trevisani is still considering some level of public-private partnership, but nothing quite like the $ 50 million bond project that voters rejected. The proposal would have funded a similar facility at Isotopes Park, a city-owned stadium leased to Isotopes since 2003.
Ahead of the November election, United’s property group pledged $ 10 million for additional construction costs and pledged to pay $ 22.5 million in rent and concessions on a 25-year lease if the bond project was approved. Trevisani said United’s ownership group remains willing to invest heavily, but said a specific dollar amount has not been determined.
“The city had a plan that mimicked Isotopes Park and we supported it,” Trevisani said. “Voters didn’t think a city-owned stadium made sense and we respect their decision. But we also pledged to spend $ 32.5 million on a stadium we wouldn’t have owned. I think it’s a huge commitment, and we’re always willing to do a lot to move forward.
Trevisani also encouraged the arrival of a professional women’s soccer team in Albuquerque, but “with the logistics of Isotopes Park this is not possible at the moment,” he said.
“Once we have a stadium plan in place, it becomes possible, so we don’t give up. If we had quit the first time we heard no, we would never have started New Mexico United. We are determined and will continue to learn as we go.