Soccer stadium pitch gets the boot - Albuquerque Journal

Soccer stadium pitch gets the boot

New Mexico United soccer team has been playing at Isotopes Park. On Tuesday voters rejected a bond measure for the city to invest millions in a stadium for the team. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Voters have resoundingly rejected the idea of the city investing millions in a new multiuse soccer stadium.

The measure — which would have provided $50 million in gross receipts tax bonds for the venue — was losing by a nearly 2-1 margin with all precincts partially reporting. Results are unofficial.

In a statement, New Mexico United, a second-tier professional soccer team that would have served as the venue’s primary tenant, acknowledged the defeat of the bond measure, but said it hasn’t given up on a stadium.

“While United will continue its pursuit of a multi-use facility that will allow us to bring a professional women’s soccer team and other community-driven programming to New Mexico, we will not be actively pursuing the proposed sites, including South Broadway and Barelas,” David Carl, the team’s spokesman, wrote in a statement. “United has said from day one that we will only support a location where the local community is behind the project and the stadium can uplift all, not just a few. That work starts immediately.”

The team had pledged to contribute $10 million upfront to the stadium’s construction costs and pay $900,000 annually to use it.

And United poured big money into an advertising effort to promote the bond. The team was the only donor to a pro-stadium political action committee that spent $871,026 in the campaign, primarily on TV commercials and mailers.

Mayor Tim Keller had also been a proponent of the measure.

On Tuesday night, he said his administration will respect the voters’ decision not to fund the stadium. Results posted as of 10 p.m. showed 65% voted against it, compared to 35% who voted for it.

“In considering a publicly owned, multiuse stadium for affordable fun for Albuquerque families, we felt it was important to let voters choose if they supported bonding that would not increase taxes,” Keller said in a statement. “We appreciate everyone, on both sides, who took part in the vigorous conversation over the past months and showed up to decide this important issue for our city.”

The stadium catapulted into the public conversation in late July when the city released a 356-page stadium feasibility study.

The next day, Keller announced he wanted to send a $50 million stadium bond to voters.

The firm that completed the feasibility study, CAA ICON, had zeroed in on two Downtown-area locations — Second Street/Iron and Coal/Broadway — as “preferred” sites for the project, although the city refused to commit to any spot prior to the election. The group had recommended a 10,000-12,000-seat venue and estimated it would cost at least $65 million to build, excluding land acquisition and any potential visitor parking.

While stadium supporters had said it would create jobs — most of them via construction — and serve as a potential catalyst for Downtown revitalization, the idea sparked almost immediate backlash.

Critics of the project had raised concerns that a stadium could price existing residents out of historic Downtown-area neighborhoods. Others argued the city should use the money to address such problems as homelessness, questioning why it would invest heavily in a venue that will be used by a privately owned team in just its third year of existence.

In a news release, the Stop the Stadium group that was advocating for housing rather than the facility, said the defeat sent a message that “working class neighborhoods will not be displaced in the interest of profit.”

“The stadium bond was a clear attempt aimed at replacing working-class Albuquerque residents with more affluent people, all in the interest of profit,” the release said. “Tonight, Albuquerque voted against gentrification. By voting against the pro-corporate stadium development project, the people of Albuquerque also made it clear they want public resources used on other community and social priorities, specifically responding more effectively to the severe housing crisis in this city, including housing all (not just some) of those experiencing homeless.”

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