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Councilor: New bonds would help ‘withering’ park

Members of the local BMX community joined City Councilor Diane Gibson Wednesday to show support for a planned $10.5 million overhaul at Los Altos Park. (Jessica Dyer/Journal)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque City Councilor Diane Gibson compares Los Altos Park to an “old friend” – one that has fallen on some hard times.

Standing next to Los Altos’ swimming pool and a few softball diamonds away from a few dozen people resting under trees with shopping carts and other belongings, Gibson and local athletes on Wednesday advocated for a proposed $10.5 million site upgrade.

The city, which says the park is the most used in its network, would update the four existing softball fields, add a fifth and build a BMX “pump track” at the western edge. Mayor Tim Keller unveiled the idea last month as part of a $29 million “sports tourism” package that includes several projects across the city.

“This park has been sliding down, withering a little bit for the past 10 years,” Gibson said, adding that the time has come to fix things, including security. The plan calls for more fencing and new lights, she said.

The City Council is expected to vote Monday on the package, which the city would fund by issuing bonds backed by the lodgers tax.

The lodgers tax – paid by overnight guests at hotels and vacation rentals – is supposed to support tourism and the city’s hoteliers have questioned whether all of the projects do that. That includes Los Altos, by far the biggest beneficiary of the new proposal.

But Gibson, whose district includes the park at Lomas and Eubank, and others contend the overhaul could lure new softball tournaments and make the park a magnet for the country’s cycling community.

“There’s no question whether this project will expand overnight tourism – there is no question. Some of those others? Not so much,” Gibson said, although she declined to specify which projects she thought had less of a case.

Kalvin Davis, a local BMX professional, said the pump track would distinguish Albuquerque in an emerging discipline. Unlike the existing BMX race course near Isotopes Park, he said a pump track is “all rollers (and) turns” instead of jumps. He said he has lobbied the city for two years to start building pump tracks and a few weeks ago received word from the Parks and Recreation Department that the city plans to create one at Los Altos.

“This is a brand-new discipline; it’s blowing up all over the world,” Davis said at Wednesday’s news conference. “We’ve got a chance to get in right now on the ground floor.”

Tom Shoemaker, a local softball league coordinator, said that the city currently lacks the type of multifield facilities that draw bigger tournaments and that the proposal would fix other Los Altos deficits by adding concession stands and expanding the fields to regulation size.

Gibson said the full project requires about $12 million, and local legislators – including Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque – said Wednesday that they would try to allocate some of their capital outlay funding.

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