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The experts have weighed in on what a potential soccer stadium might look like for Albuquerque.
A consultant the city of Albuquerque hired to evaluate the feasibility and economic impact of a multipurpose soccer stadium for the professional team’s use has homed in on a pair of Downtown area locations for the venue – a project that it estimates costing between $65 million and $70 million.
CAA ICON’s newly completed study has identified the Coal/Broadway area and the Second Street/Iron area as “preferred sites” for a 10,000- to 12,000-seat venue.
But in releasing the firm’s analysis Friday afternoon, the city cautioned that officials have “not yet made any determinations” and it is now time for a larger public conversation.
“This study is a key part of our due diligence as we explore the possibility of a multi-use facility,” Albuquerque Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Rael said in a statement. “We’re glad to have the results of the study so we can discuss the findings with the community, make proper considerations, and initiate next steps.”
United currently shares the city-owned Isotopes Park with the stadium’s primary tenant, the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes baseball team.
Peter Trevisani, New Mexico United’s president and owner, called the two preferred locations “phenomenal sites” as the club has always desired a Downtown home.
“The city is hurting, and this is the kind of project along with things like rail trail and ‘First Friday’ art walks … that add up to a major change,” he said.
The stadium could generate new net direct spending of $10.3 million a year, the firm estimates. That doesn’t include such things as indirect spending or economic activity related to construction.
Denver-based CAA ICON looked specifically at four sites, including the Railyards and the area near 12th Street and Interstate 40.
Its evaluation considered several factors including size, zoning, ownership and parking, according to the report.
The city owns a piece of each preferred site, but the acreage needed at each location is mostly privately owned.
The estimated project price tag – $64.6 million for Second/Iron and $70 million for Coal/Broadway – does not incorporate land acquisition costs.
The analysis does not make any recommendation for how the city could pay for a stadium. Asked what money the city currently has for the project, a spokeswoman cited New Mexico legislative appropriations totaling $7.5 million.
Trevisani, meanwhile, said the club’s contributions would likely be in the form of ongoing rental payments or development outside the stadium.
“The issue there is we’re not allowed to own any of the stadium – we’re just a tenant. The stadium would need to be owned by the city and since we can’t own the stadium, we’re not really in a position to buy a percentage of it like you might buy a percentage of a company,” he said, adding that the team would explore ways to support the project and make sure it’s financially viable but that it wants to see the city’s plans first.
New Mexico United would be the venue’s primary tenant, according to the analysis. CAA ICON assumed a 24-event annual calendar dominated by the soccer club, including 16 regular-season and two preseason games.
Other likely events included two high school sporting events, two “friendlies” and two concerts with an estimated 5,500 fans per show, although the study noted that the stadium would probably not be a popular destination for musical performers.
Based on interviews with potential stadium users – including local event promoters – CAA ICON reported that top acts usually bypass Albuquerque and that those who do come have a better alternative.
“Larger concert shows would likely opt to play at Isleta Amphitheater due to permanent staging and rigging,” the report says.
The report notes that its calendar does not include other potential on-site stadium uses such as meetings, weddings and charity events.
CAA ICON – paid $400,000 by the city as of last month – also included a market analysis in the study, comparing the Albuquerque area to other markets with USL Championship teams. The USL Championship is the second-tier professional soccer league in which New Mexico United competes.
The study notes that Albuquerque is well below the USL Championship average in terms of population, median income, high-income households, corporate base and total sports and concert admission spending. It is above the league market average in median age and unemployment.
However, it is about average in terms of the percentage of the population ages 18-34 – a “key target demographic,” for sports leagues, the report says.
And the study says that league teams in mid-sized markets, rather than the big cities, tend to have the best attendance, noting that New Mexico United had the league’s highest attendance in 2019, its inaugural season.
“Despite the limited size of the market, the Albuquerque Isotopes (Triple-A baseball team) and New Mexico United have performed well in terms of attendance,” the report says.
The firm is recommending a stadium with 10,000-12,000 seats – including a close-to-the-field supporters’ section for 500-1,000 fans, plus 14-20 luxury suites – but with the potential to expand to 15,000 seats if warranted.
However, the firm noted that its program suggestions are based on a team with a relatively short track record.
“Given the limited amount of time New Mexico United has operated, consideration could also be given to revisiting recommendations based on ongoing performance of the team,” the report said.