Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Albuquerque Football Stadium Bond Issue Creates Controversy | Local news

Democratic State Senator Katy Duhigg announced on Tuesday her opposition to a $ 50 million loan for a professional football stadium in her hometown of Albuquerque.

“I vote no,” Duhigg wrote on her Facebook page.

State Representative Joy Garratt is still listening to arguments about public funding for a stadium that would be New Mexico United’s home field.

“I held back from voting ahead of time to consider the proposal,” said Garratt, D-Albuquerque. “I love the soccer team. The mind is great. But what does the project actually cost? “

House Majority Leader Javier Martínez, Albuquerque, D-Albuquerque, is an ardent proponent of building a 12,000-seat football stadium, largely publicly funded. He helped convince state lawmakers to provide $ 9 million in public construction finance over the past two years to kick off a stadium attached to a cultural center. The money can be used for site selection, land purchase and stationary expenses.

“It’s a multi-purpose facility that would house other businesses – cafes, restaurants, maybe an art collective. It should be accessible to all of us, ”said Martínez.

All three legislators will certainly support Mayor Tim Keller in his application for a second term. The fact that not everyone supports the stadium proposal, supported the basement, is a sign that the bond is in trouble.

A more specific indicator was a survey recently commissioned by The Paper, an Albuquerque weekly newspaper. It showed

59 percent of 793 likely voters rejected the issue of stadium bonds. 23 percent supported this, 17 percent were undecided.

The polls are evidence that the public is thinking clearer than Keller and Albuquerque City Council, who voted 7-2 to put the bond on the November vote.

Albuquerque is full of problems, especially crime. A soccer stadium is a bells and whistle in a city that broke its annual homicide record – in August.

As with campaigns for publicly funded stadiums across America, the team that would benefit would fund a political action committee and spend generously on advertising.

According to New Mexico United’s PAC, the stadium would handle 500 construction jobs. That may be true, but these jobs will end soon enough.

Debt payments for the stadium would take 20 years. The city of Albuquerque estimated the cost of principal and interest at $ 3.2 million annually.

After the construction phase, the team’s pitch would create another 280 full-time positions with the new venue. It is now playing its games at the Isotopes baseball park.

New Mexico United has 29 players on its squad plus an eight-person coaching staff. Another 26 employees work in the team’s front office.

The new stadium would have to create more than 200 additional jobs to reach the total number promised. New Mexico United aims to recruit a women’s soccer team for Albuquerque to increase employment and stadium usage.

He sees many of the other new jobs as spin-offs from the stadium business, says Martínez.

“We don’t have a large private employer downtown now,” he said. “Bringing in 12,000 people a few times a month would be a huge win” for companies he envisions as part of the stadium complex.

Martínez allows more government funding to be made available for the project.

“We now have quite a bit of capacity with capital spending and general fund money,” he said.

Capital spending is the term state lawmakers use to fund public works they control for their counties. The Albuquerque delegation could pool their money on stadium costs, as well as the $ 9 million allocated to launch a stadium project.

Taking money from the general fund for a stadium in Albuquerque would be controversial and likely difficult. Legislators from other cities could be reluctant.

New Mexico United has received a US $ 10 million advance financial payment for the stadium for construction costs. It has also proposed paying the city $ 800,000 in rent annually and at least $ 100,000 annually from concession sales and other stadium revenue.

The stadium would be publicly owned, which means it wouldn’t generate property taxes for the city.

Projections are just that. The skeptic in me remembers countless other professional stadiums where costs were kept down and revenue didn’t go into the hospitality industry.

Duhigg also has doubts about spending public money on a football stadium in a city with so many other needs. She wasn’t interested in being featured in this column, even after publicly saying she would vote against the stadium bond issue.

“This is not a fight that I want to participate in in any official capacity,” she wrote me in a message.

There is nothing wrong with New Mexico United coveting a stadium where it is the main tenant.

Conversely, there’s nothing wrong with cautious taxpayers expecting the team to pay for their place of business.

Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at

[email protected] or 505-986-3080.

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