Stadium could help Barelas, Railyards, Downtown - Albuquerque Journal

Stadium could help Barelas, Railyards, Downtown

As the city councilor representing the top potential locations for a new soccer stadium, I support the proposed stadium bond on the ballot this Nov. 2. I also want to single out a preferred location identified by the independent study – 2nd Street and Iron SW in Barelas – for the following three reasons.

First, let’s shine a light on the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) resolution unanimously passed by council, requiring that a strong agreement be executed between the city of Albuquerque, the directly impacted neighborhood and New Mexico United Soccer as the primary tenant in a city-owned stadium.

Historically, public/private stadium deals have been made with neighborhoods getting the short end of the stick. With a CBA, the selected neighborhood can count on a binding process to say for themselves what their most pressing challenges and concerns are and what the best responses to those should be. Most importantly, if the neighborhood does not find agreement, then the stadium cannot go there.

It is my understanding that the stadium bond election resolution may be the first in the country to require a CBA. I’m proud to have played a role in setting that precedent and appreciate the support received from the mayor, city councilors and New Mexico United.

If the stadium bond fails, the stadium could be built anywhere, with no assured public benefit. That’s why it’s important for the city to own the stadium, and not a private entity. By making the stadium a public asset, we gain flexibility and accountability to ensure the community’s needs are met. A public stadium – a “People’s Stadium” – is the best way to ensure that its neighbors are true partners.

Second, representatives of the Barelas Neighborhood Association, Barelas Community Coalition and Casa Barelas led the community discussion that concluded in the call for a CBA applicable to any selected site. With the CBA now specifically called for in the ballot ordinance that awaits the decision of the voters, these neighborhood advocates serve as a check and balance against special interests. Albuquerque voters and potentially impacted neighborhoods now have protections and assurances they didn’t have before. Aside from categorical opposition, no other neighborhood groups proactively entered discussion with the city.

Those community organizations also continue to build upon their longstanding support for Albuquerque’s historic 4th Street SW and the Railyards, close by the Barelas site. Both are citywide assets that could benefit from proximity to a stadium.

Third, the Barelas site is superior to any other due to its easily walkable proximity to Downtown, the heart of Albuquerque, which is sorely in need of a “shot in the arm” due to the pandemic, changing work models and other recent unique challenges.

With thousands of existing parking spaces on its streets and in public parking facilities, available after daytime business hours when games occur, Downtown could provide 100% of stadium parking. This would greatly reduce the ultimate project cost and impacts. Combined with easy access to the Rail Runner and public transit, game day “residents-only” parking restrictions for residential streets would minimize parking impacts to nearby residents.

Rail Runner could serve as a “park-and-ride,” bringing spectators from Santa Fe to Belen – giving a new meaning to Nuevo Mexico Unido. Downtown restaurants, retail and entertainment venues would benefit from additional customers on game days. The streets of our center city would be enlivened.

With a CBA, the stadium would be a truly public facility, with locally grown food, startups, workers and a neighborhood determining its relationship to it. That’s a great deal for all of us. I urge you to vote “yes” for the multiuse stadium bond.


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