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Enormous expansion comes to Sandia Resort

An expansion at Sandia Casino & Resort will add a sports bar and a bigger high-limit gambling room expansion. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A massive expansion that includes a new third-floor sports bar is coming to Sandia Resort & Casino.

“It’ll be an exciting addition,” said Steve Osborn of Studio Southwest Architects, the architecture firm behind the expansion.

The superstructure of 75,000-square-foot expansion is clearly visible from Tramway Road NE, jutting out from the casino’s southeastern edge. Osborn said the development will expand the casino’s high-limit gambling room, where visitors can wager more on a variety of slot machines, on the casino’s first floor.

Osborn said the entire third floor of the expansion will consist of a 25,000-square-foot sports bar and restaurant, featuring indoor golf facilities and a number of widescreen televisions.

A rendering of an 8,147-square-foot industrial building going up in Northeast Albuquerque. (Courtesy of Mechenbier Construction)

He added that the new bar, which does not yet have a name, will be nonsmoking and family-friendly, as Sandia attempts to appeal to a wider variety of customers.

“They really want to be known as a resort, not just as a casino,” Osborn said.

He said the second story of the expansion is currently designated as shell space, with roughly half of the floor space dedicated to mechanical equipment.

Osborn said Studio Southwest came onboard about two years ago, after designing a separate human resources building on the casino’s property. Jaynes Corp., which has an office in Albuquerque, is the general contractor on the project.

Osborn declined to provide an estimate for when the expansion might be completed.

A representative from Sandia did not respond to several calls seeking comment on the project.

Rainbow Ryders expands in Phoenix

A Rainbow Ryders hot air balloon returns to Balloon Fiesta Park after a flight. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal )

Two months before the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta begins, New Mexico’s largest hot-air balloon ride operator made a big expansion in another key Southwestern market.

Earlier this month, the Albuquerque-based hot air balloon company Rainbow Ryders acquired Float Balloon Tours, based in Phoenix. While Rainbow Ryders already conducts balloon rides in Phoenix, company founder and President Scott Appelman said the acquisition paves the way for the company to grow its footprint in Arizona’s fast-growing capital.

“Doing business in Arizona is awesome,” Appelman said.

Founded 37 years ago, Rainbow Ryders has grown into one of New Mexico’s most recognizable hot air balloon companies. Appelman said the company leads balloon tours in three cities: Albuquerque, Phoenix and Colorado Springs.

“Those 3 markets have been incredibly good to us,” he said.

The acquisition adds to Rainbow Ryder’s capacity, bringing the company’s total to 33 balloons that can transport around 150 passengers daily. Appelman said the company anticipates hiring six or seven new employees to keep up with the increased demand.

Expanding in Phoenix makes sense because the city has a large, growing population and a tourism season that complements the other markets Rainbow Ryders operates in, he said.

Unlike Albuquerque, where high season runs from summer to fall, Appelman said, winter is the busiest time for balloon rides in Phoenix, which allows the company to move balloons among its markets as needed.

In addition to acquiring Float Balloon Tours, Rainbow Ryders also established a development partnership with Cloth & Flame, a wedding and event management company owned by Float. Appelman said the partnership allows Rainbow Ryders to take over day-to-day ballooning operations, while allowing the company to pair Cloth & Flame’s expanding dining options with balloon rides.

New spec building in Northeast ABQ

A new industrial building with no tenants attached – still a relatively rare sight in Albuquerque – is rising just north of Paseo del Norte and west of Jefferson.

In February, Mechenbier Construction Inc. broke ground on a 8,147-square-foot industrial building in Northeast Albuquerque. The building, at 4455 Anaheim NE, has features such as energy efficient roof paneling, sunken truck doors and a 7,000-square-foot fenced outdoor area, according to project manager Jeremy Mechenbier.

Mechenbier said the building’s location allows it easy access to Rio Rancho via Alameda Boulevard and Paseo Del Norte, as well as other markets via Interstate 25. Because of that, the building would like be a good fit for a business that focuses on distribution.

While Albuquerque’s industrial market has picked up, speculative building – construction without a specific tenant attached to the project – has been slow to follow. A CBRE report noted that Albuquerque reduced its industrial vacancy by more than 510,000 square feet in 2018, the third-highest yearly total in the last decade. However, the report also noted that there’s a shortage of speculative industrial buildings going up, which has forced tenants to defer moves or expansions.

However, Mechenbier has made a point of building on spec when others are reluctant to. Mechenbier said the building on Anaheim is the firm’s fourth spec industrial building in the past six years, and each of the first three are fully leased. He added that he’s encouraged by an expanding local economy.

“It just seems like everybody has a job,” Mechenbier said. “Things are picking up.”

Mechenbier expects the building to be finished by the start of September. He added that prospective tenants can learn more about the building by calling Sycamore Associates, which is handling leasing, at 505-345-5075.

Stephen Hamway covers retail and real estate for the Albuquerque Journal. You can reach him at or by phone at 505-823-3919.


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