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Council, administration at odds over TopGolf incentives

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque city councilors next month are expected to consider a measure that would provide financial incentives for Topgolf, a sports and entertainment complex, to build one of its venues in Albuquerque.

But Keller administration officials are expressing concern that the proposed ordinance, approved by the Finance and Government Operations Committee with a recommendation of “Do Pass,” does not contain rules and standards usually required in LEDA projects.

According to a city economic development official, the proposed project participation agreement with the Dallas-based company was negotiated without the input of the city’s economic development department, also required by LEDA.

“It’s important to follow the normal rules for this project, which requires an economic assessment, to ensure taxpayer funds are used wisely,” said Synthia Jaramillo, the city’s economic development director, in a statement. “This legislation circumvents this process and waives these safeguards for this project, and this project alone.”

The proposed ordinance has no requirement for Topgolf to create or maintain jobs, usually a condition of receiving LEDA funding, according to Jaramillo.

“We encourage investment into our city by businesses and want to spur job creation, however this ordinance and project will set a bad precedent and sends the message that Topgolf doesn’t have to play by the same rules that other companies that have received LEDA funding had to,” Jaramillo said. “It doesn’t meet the standards we require of all other projects.”

In an email to the Journal, Councilor Ken Sanchez said the council has done its due diligence on this project, and “the best and most experienced legal minds in the city agree that the process the council has followed complies with state statute and city ordinances.”

“I understand that the administration has pointed out that there are no job creation requirements or clawback provisions in the ordinance, however, those provisions are usually included in a separate agreement negotiated with the city called a Project Participation Agreement,” Sanchez said. “In fact, if you look at the application for the project, the applicant has offered clawback provision for the LEDA funds and has listed the jobs to be created. I have directed council staff to work with the administration and the applicant to ensure that protections for the city in terms of clawbacks and job creation are included in the agreement.”

The city’s participation in the project is contingent upon Bernalillo County commissioners approving about $1.75 million in LEDA funding for land and construction activities at the 1600 Desert Surf Circle NE location, near MontaƱo and Interstate 25. The ordinance doesn’t specify a proposed amount of city funding.

The business expects to spend an estimated $38.9 million on the facility for land and construction activities: land, $5.3 million; site improvements, $3.8 million; $23.5 million building and other real property improvement; $232,500 signs and landscaping; and $4.1 million in soft costs.

In addition, the business expects to spend an estimated $10 million on furniture, fixtures and equipment.

Once operating, the center expects to generate about $13 million to $16 million in annual taxable gross receipts. The facility expects to create new 350 full- and part-time operational jobs with an estimated annual payroll of $3.5 million to $4.5 million.

The business would feature point-scoring games in which customers use microchipped balls that instantly score themselves. Players are shown the accuracy and distance of their shots on a TV screen in their hitting bay.

The three-level venue would include 1,500 square feet of private event space and 72 climate-controlled hitting bays.

Bernalillo County commissioners on April 24 voted to approve publication of a notice of intent to adopt an ordinance under LEDA.

Commissioners will soon consider a proposed ordinance that would include a project participation agreement containing a new job creation commitment.