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Mayor sends $28M sports tourism proposal to City Council

Athletes representing Vermont are pictured before the Parade of Athletes at The Pit during the National Senior Games in June. On Saturday, Mayor Tim Keller said, “The National Senior Games were a huge success with an estimated $34 million local impact, so we are seizing the opportunity to grow sports-related tourism.” (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Mayor Tim Keller is asking city councilors to approve a $28 million infrastructure package to rebuild Los Altos Park, build a multi-use soccer complex that could be used as a practice facility for New Mexico United and upgrade other recreational facilities around Albuquerque in an effort to boost sports tourism in the city.

The Keller administration says the proposal would not result in a tax hike. The money would come from refinancing existing Lodger’s Tax bonds. Lodger’s Tax funds must be used on tourism-related projects.

Keller put forth the proposal to the City Council on Friday.

While the money from the bonds would be used to fund sports facilities across the city, Los Altos Park would receive the largest share with $10.5 million proposed to rebuild the park and add a new softball field and a BMX ring.

“A renovation of Los Altos Park will do wonders to increase those economic and tourism benefits,” Parks and Recreation Director David Simon said during a Saturday afternoon news conference with Keller.

“Los Altos is the busiest park in the city,” Simon said.

Keller said the money proposed for Los Altos would also address safety concerns by adding additional lighting and redesigning the layout of the park.

In addition to the Los Altos Park renovations, $3 million is being proposed to build a multi-use soccer complex.

Keller said the complex would be available for use by Albuquerque Public Schools, the New Mexico Activities Association, and would serve as a practice field for New Mexico United.

The site of the complex has not been picked, but Keller said the city is looking at building it on the West Side.

The proposal comes several months after the city hosted the National Senior Games, which the Mayor’s Office pointed to as an example of successful sports-related tourism in Albuquerque.

“The success of the senior games this year really has demonstrated what a remarkable location Albuquerque is for major venues and major events,” Simon said.

“The National Senior Games were a huge success with an estimated $34 million local impact, so we are seizing the opportunity to grow sports-related tourism,” Keller said in a release.

Besides the Los Altos upgrade, Keller’s proposal includes:

• $3.5 million to expand the Westside Baseball Sports Facility Complex.

• $3 million to upgrade Convention Center infrastructure, including adding outdoor message boards, and potentially having the Kiva Auditorium host a larger range of events.

• $3 million to build a multi-use soccer facility. This facility would host New Mexico Activities Association championships and other tournaments.

• $2.5 million to replace the city’s 16-year-old indoor track.

• $2.5 million to support the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta by preserving open space landing sites.

• $2 million to connect Downtown, East Downtown and the Innovation District with a multi-use trail.

• And $1 million to upgrade Isotopes Park.

In its news release, the Keller administration states that the Isotopes Park upgrades would include nets to protect young children and families during games and field improvements to provide for an easier transition from baseball to other uses, including other sports like soccer as well as concerts.

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