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As New Mexico United bankrolls an advertising blitz encouraging Albuquerque voters to approve a $50 million stadium bond, opponents gathered Wednesday to highlight concerns that it represents “welfare” for millionaires and would harm neighborhoods.
Barelas residents Susi and Charles Knoblauch hosted the anti-stadium news conference on their front porch, joined by other city residents and community leaders critical of the Nov. 2 ballot measure.
The city is asking voters if they support borrowing up to $50 million through bonds to help build a new multipurpose soccer stadium. Officials have not picked a site, although the Knoblauches live a few blocks south of Second and Iron SW, which consultants identified as one of two “preferred” locations. The other is Coal and Broadway SE.
New Mexico United, a professional soccer team, would be the venue’s primary tenant under a lease with the city and has contributed $560,000 to a political action committee promoting the bond through a vigorous mail and television campaign.
Opponents who gathered Wednesday raised several concerns. Several argued the team’s owners are wealthy and should not need a subsidized project.
“These people are capable of paying for a stadium out of their own damn pockets. They have no need to reach into the pockets of those people of Albuquerque,” Charles Knoblauch said, adding that current price estimates do not include such “hidden costs” as parking and increased traffic.
Other critics voiced fears that the project would hurt surrounding communities.
“I have learned to be wary of our political processes that too often ask a quick ‘yes’ from constituents with a promise to take community concerns into account later, only to discover once the ‘yes’ is given that there is no reason to continue working diligently with the community to address concerns,” said Jon Moore, pastor at First United Methodist Church.
The city must have a “community benefits agreement” with United and the affected neighborhood before a stadium is built. The Barelas Neighborhood Association and Barelas Community Coalition last week released a statement about the importance of a CBA, saying people who vote “yes” on a stadium will also “guarantee … the City of Albuquerque and NM United have to respect impacted communities as true partners.”
But opponents questioned whether neighborhoods would truly be protected. Frances Armijo from the South Broadway neighborhood said she feels residents near the two preferred sites are “sacrificial lambs.”
“CBAs or no CBAs, once the damage is done, the damage is done,” she said.
The pro-stadium PAC said Wednesday that the city is addressing many other city concerns through the other $140 million in general obligation bonds on the Nov. 2 ballot.
“We also know that Albuquerque’s success is deeply rooted in investing in our community’s future quality of life,” New Mexico United for All political director Carrie Robin Brunder said in a statement. “We encourage Albuquerque voters to unite with us and invest in all of the bonds, including the People’s Stadium that we can all take pride in for generations to come.”
United has pledged $10 million upfront to help build the stadium, a venue consultants estimate will cost at least $65 million, and to pay $900,000 annually to use it. That would cover roughly 30% of the city’s yearly payments on the bond, which officials say can be paid off with no tax increase.