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Many questions remain about the city of Albuquerque’s proposed multipurpose soccer stadium plan.
While voters will be asked on Nov. 2 if they support using $50 million in gross receipts tax-backed bonds to pay for the project, officials have not decided where to build it, determined the exact size or established how much the resident tenant – the New Mexico United soccer team – will pay the city to lease it. They say those answers will come after voters green-light funding.
But a little more information emerged during the Albuquerque City Council’s meeting on Monday, when councilors heard from CAA ICON – the consulting firm the city hired to conduct a stadium feasibility analysis – and from the city’s Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Rael.
Among the ground covered during the meeting:
What exactly is this thing?: New Mexico United has described the project in various ways over the last two years, including “multi-use cultural center and stadium” and “sport and cultural center.” In appropriating money for the project in 2020, the New Mexico Legislature’s capital outlay legislation referred to a “sports and cultural center, including art exhibits, public outdoor spaces, retail and dining facilities and playing fields.”
But Councilor Lan Sena said she has seen little evidence there is any multicultural component, saying it appears to be a sports stadium that could potentially be used for other events.
While United’s ownership has discussed additional components or amenities within or around the facility, Rael said “those ideas are just simply that – they’re ideas” that would require separate private-sector investment.
“We’re putting in $50 million if voters approve it,” Rael said. “That $50 million is to build a basic stadium.”
Land costs: Though no site is decided, CAA ICON evaluated four potential Downtown-area locations for the stadium and identified two as “preferred” – Second Street/Iron and Coal/Broadway. Based on those sites and the consultants’ size recommendations, the firm estimated construction costs of $65 million to $70 million excluding land acquisition.
The city owns land at both preferred sites but each also involve multiple privately owned parcels.
Rael told the council that the city has evaluated the areas and believes necessary land purchases would cost between $5 million and $7 million. He said the city has enough money available to cover the land costs, thanks to previous state appropriations, and would not need to tap the proposed $50 million stadium bond to buy property at those sites.
Timelines: Rael told the council that the city could start stadium construction “within seven to nine months” after the November election should voters approve the bonds. He said the city could move forward on even a “basic” stadium with only $50 million, despite CAA ICON’s estimates that it would cost $15 million to $20 million more than that.
“We build projects all of the time in the city, and we never have enough money for all of the bells and whistles we want on every single project we have,” Rael said, noting that the city could continue seeking additional funds to create something better.
Other uses: Mayor Tim Keller’s administration has stressed that New Mexico United would be just one user of the city-owned facility, but CAA ICON’s feasibility analysis assumed what it called a “primary” annual calendar of 24 events – nearly all of them United games.
Councilor Brook Bassan asked why the analysis included so few events, and CAA ICON executive vice president Dan Barrett explained that the firm wanted to give a “realistic picture” about the large events “we know will occur at the facility.”
He said it could potentially host many other smaller events – positing the idea of a 50-person meeting in a stadium lounge or a 100- to 500-person gathering on the plaza – but usage is usually tied to facility design and location.
“It’s difficult at this point to estimate and to reasonably predict what those numbers are until a decision is made on (the) site,” he said.
West Side: The council on Monday voted down legislation that would have required the city to evaluate potential stadium sites west of the Rio Grande. But it did add language to the stadium bond bill, signaling the city’s intent to eventually invest in developing “new youth and amateur soccer fields west of the river.”