You wouldn’t buy a house without knowing where it was going to be built.
So it’s no surprise asking Albuquerque taxpayers to approve a $ 50 million bail for a football stadium without saying where it will go turns out to be a bit of a problem. As one Albuquerque resident aptly put it in the public commentary, it is about “putting the cart before the horse.”
Standing in the back of a van at Isotopes Park last month with New Mexico United fans wearing yellow plastic hard hats, banging drums and waving flags, Mayor Tim Keller announced he was sending a resolution to city council for a state-funded downtown football stadium with New Mexico United as the primary tenant. The city council is due to vote on Monday whether to send the question of obligations to voters for them to decide on November 2.
The new push for a football stadium comes after a Denver-based, city-hired consulting firm assessed four sites in the greater downtown area – train stations, Second Street / Iron, Coal / Broadway, and Interstate 40 / 12th Street. The 356-page feasibility study focused only on the greater downtown area, and then identified Second Street / Iron and Coal / Broadway as the two âpreferredâ sites.
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The multi-purpose stadium with 10,000 to 12,000 seats would cost between $ 65 million and $ 70 million before land acquisition costs.
Outside of the campaign atmosphere of Isotopes Park where United played their first seasons, the hindsight has been staggering, with critics outnumbering supporters in around 90 written comments to City Council of around 13 to 1.
Some have said that a state-funded downtown stadium will displace low-income residents while making a few select people rich. One detractor called the proposal “a document for private industry that adds no value to the lives of ordinary people who make up the community.” Others said the minor league football team should use an existing public place like Isotopes Park or the city-owned university stadium or pay for its own stadium. Many said the city had much more pressing concerns.
This does not prove that there is no support. A few have written in its favor, pointing to the associated construction activity. When New Mexico United texted their fans asking them to let councilors know their support, more than 900 forwarded the sample letter in the first two days asking councilors to put the stadium on the ballot, according to the football organization.
But the critical backlash has raised concerns with City Councilor Brook Bassan – one of two city councilors co-sponsoring the legislation to send the issue to voters. Bassan thinks an election is the best way to solve the problem – she is right. But city leaders and other supporters of the plan should also be concerned.
City officials have said they will not pick a location until voters approve the bonds. It’s a backward streak that the city should reconsider. After all, real estate agents say it’s all about the location.
The difficulty of rallying support for projects in unspecified locations is a lesson one might think city leaders would have learned after years of discussions over the proposed location of a large homeless shelter. It wasn’t until the city finally made up its mind to purchase the former Lovelace Hospital on Gibson SE in April that the Gateway Center project gained momentum and plausibility.
New Mexico United brings a lot of enthusiasm and unity to the Albuquerque area. The club plan to put the skin in the game with a public-private partnership similar to the Isotopes, which have both paid rent and improved the stadium. But remember, the âTopes play about 70 home games in a season; United are playing 16 (plus 2 preseason).
And taxpayers deserve more than vague proposals like booking weddings (really?) To fill the schedule and coffers of a new stadium. Voters deserve to know what they are voting on – starting with the stadium location and continuing with potential roommates and ROI. There is a big difference between a house by a lake and a house overlooking a landfill.
And municipal taxpayers deserve to know what they are really mortgaging before they invest $ 50 million.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned because it represents the opinion of the journal rather than that of the authors.