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HARRY GORDON: Rio Rancho’s ‘A Park Above’ is a different animal

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Talk about not learning from life’s lessons.

In his March 2 guest column in the Observer, Bill Lowen attacked my position on Rio Rancho’s A Park Above, but failed again to present the entire story — specifically where the money to build Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio came from and where the money to build Rio Rancho’s A Park Above is coming from.

Harry Gordon.

Harry Gordon.

In 2007, the Gordon Hartman Family Foundation established a non-profit group called Sports Outdoor and Recreation (SOAR) to raise money for construction of Morgan’s Wonderland and to provide for quality, professional management. Funding began with a gift of $1 million from Gordon and Maggie Hartman. Overall, the cost of this project was approximately $36 million. About 50 percent of the funding came from private funds and 50 percent from public funds (City of San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas).

Mr. Hartman also started Soccer for a Cause, a community-wide effort to bring pro soccer to San Antonio that resulted in the acquisition of a franchise in the North American Soccer League (NASL), the San Antonio Scorpions. The Scorpions convey all net profits to Morgan’s Wonderland. In August 2012, global automotive giant Toyota announced its sponsorship of the Scorpions’ new stadium, Toyota Field. Toyota also became a primary sponsor of Morgan’s Wonderland under a long-term philanthropic agreement (Source: The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation).

Where is funding for Rio Rancho’s Park Above coming from? The city has committed approximately $2 million for Phase I design and construction, the estimated cost for this portion of the project. The majority of this funding (75 percent) comes from New Mexico’s state severance tax proceeds (these revenues are generated from the mining of natural resources and distributed to communities by the state for capital outlay projects). Sandoval County has contributed 11 percent, Rio Rancho 9 percent (impact fees) and private money 5 percent of the total actual cash collected. The value of private in-kind donations, to date, is around $130,000. So, unlike Morgan’s Wonderland, 12.9 percent, or $230,000, will come from private funding, while 87.1 percent, or $1.77 million, will come from public funds (Source: The City of Rio Rancho).

Mr. Lowen also commented about Lakeland, Fla., site of the “prototype” for Rio Rancho’s A Park Above. Lowen wrote, “Basically, the only reason for a person to travel to Lakeland, which is not really a vacation spot, is to go to the park.” Yet the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce website declares, “Everything you look for in a Central Florida vacation is right at your fingertips in Lakeland. The mild weather and warm sunny days attract visitors to the events and attractions that make Lakeland one of Florida’s most colorful and exciting vacation destinations.” Fact: Polk County, in which Lakeland is located, averages 1.5 million tourist visits each year. Here are a few of the of the family vacation designation activities in and around that area: Detroit Tigers spring training camp and ballpark, LEGOLAND Water Park, Florida Air Museum, Bok Tower Gardens, Safari Wilderness Ranch, Absolute Aqua Sports Park, Auburndale Speedway, the nation’s largest single-campus collection of Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture. How many tourist visits a year does Rio Rancho/Sandoval County get?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all our city parks were retrofitted to accommodate children and adults with disabilities so parents and caregivers could take these individuals to facilities in their neighborhood, as opposed to having to drive clear across the city to avail themselves of these type of facilities?

(Harry Gordon, a graduate civil engineer, is an 11-year resident of Rio Rancho.)

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