Should Albuquerque voters approve a $50 million bond in November, New Mexico United will be playing in a soccer-specific stadium in the coming years.
But they may not be the only team regularly playing in the stadium, should that bond pass.
As part of the city of Albuquerque’s impromptu Thursday morning press conference announcing a Letter of Intent agreement with New Mexico United on what that team’s ownership group would pay up front for the new stadium ($10 million) and annually in rent ($800,000), there was also the announcement that if the stadium is approved, the ownership group is committed to bring a women’s professional soccer team to the market.
“I haven’t been shy about saying that, aspirationally, we want to have a professional women’s team,” said Peter Trevisani, primary owner of New Mexico United. “And now, we have it in writing that we’re committed to doing that within three years of having this facility built.”
It would be the first women’s professional team in Albuquerque and believed to be the first women’s professional sports team in the market since a brief three-game season in 1980 for a women’s basketball team that played about a week before its league folded.
“Those are important commitments, and commitments that will again ensure that we continue to use the facility and bring a cross section of sports in the facility for both women’s sports and men’s sports,” said Lawrence Rael, the city’s Chief Operating Officer.
Specifically, the Letter of Intent signed by Rael on behalf of the city of Albuquerque and Trevisani, states: “The team shall use its best efforts to bring a women’s soccer team to Albuquerque within three years of completion of the project to play in the facility.”
But, if the stadium bond does not pass in November, the push by United owners to bring a women’s professional team to Albuquerque is off the table, at least for the foreseeable future.
“The answer is unfortunately, no,” Trevisani said. “… The fact is that we don’t have enough room for the programming.”
He noted the Isotopes play 70 games a year and between that, United’s schedule and events like UNM football and basketball games, the facilities and the area around Avenida Cesar Chavez and University simply can’t fit in another team’s events right now.
WHAT LEAGUE? There appear to be two women’s professional soccer leagues available to join, should that happen in Albuquerque – the National Women’s Soccer League and a newly announced women’s professional team coming in 2023 under the umbrella of the USL, the organization in which United currently plays in the USL Championship division.
The cart would be getting placed years before the horse if the ownership group was already committing to which league it will pursue, but in the past the idea has been openly discussed and United’s ownership and supporter groups of the team have openly discussed the desire and intent to join the NWSL, the highest level of women’s professional soccer in the United States.
“We would love to see an NWSL team here – compete at the highest level,” Trevisani said. “I know we can support it and I know the ownership would get behind it.
“If it’s not that (NWSL), there’s a USL women’s league. And we’ll see what the landscape looks like over the next few years. Whatever we can bring here that represents us, we’re going to do that.”
The NWSL started playing in 2013 with eight teams and is growing to 10 teams with two more franchises – one in San Diego and one in Los Angeles – set to join in 2022.