Home coming for New Mexico United? - Albuquerque Journal

Home coming for New Mexico United?

New Mexico United owner Peter Trevisani, middle, celebrates with fans prior to a July 2021 match against El Paso Locomotive FC at Isotopes Park. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)
New Mexico United is fast approaching the finish line of its fourth season and there are still more questions than answers regarding a permanent home stadium for the club.

Peter Trevisani, the USL Championship club’s president/CEO, is working to change that.

Things have been up in the air since Albuquerque voters rejected a $50 million bond issue to fund a city owned, United-leased stadium in 2021. Trevisani has since said United’s ownership group will pursue a privately funded facility that does not rely upon city tax dollars.

But nearly a year has passed since the bond issue’s failure and the clock is ticking for United. The USL Championship has mandated that all of its clubs are primary tenants in soccer-specific stadiums by 2026 — the year the United States is scheduled to host the World Cup.

Trevisani remains optimistic.

“We can get it done in time,” he said in an interview with the Journal. “We could have a site within the next 60 days and then put a (financing and construction) plan in place within six months. It’s important to get rolling, especially if we want to be on the grass by 2025.”

In the meantime, United will continue to play home games at Isotopes Park as a sub-tenant to Triple-A baseball’s Albuquerque Isotopes. The clubs agreed last offseason to a three-year extension through 2024.

It’s not an ideal situation for either franchise, as the playing surface must be repeatedly transformed to accommodate baseball/soccer. Sod is installed over the baseball infield for soccer, which can be problematic in rainy conditions. Two United games this season had to be postponed because of sod issues, including Wednesday’s match against LA Galaxy II, which was stopped after six minutes because of unsafe field conditions.

Such issues would be unlikely if United played on a soccer-specific surface, and that remains a priority for Trevisani moving forward. As for where a new stadium will be located, what it might look like and how much it will cost, specifics have yet to be nailed down.

Trevisani said recent speculation about three potential sites — Albuquerque’s West Side, Mesa del Sol and the Isotopes Park area — is not unfounded. He declined to be more specific, but confirmed the club has explored West Side property and held “discussions” about building in the Mesa del Sol area where United’s training facility is located.

“We’ve been looking at three different areas and we’re close on a couple of parcels,” Trevisani said. “We want an attractive location that’s within the city limits and where we can be a catalyst for positive change, not just a place to play soccer.”

Trevisani said he and other members of United’s ownership group toured recently opened USL Championship stadiums in Louisville and Colorado Springs seeking ideas and inspiration. Both venues have impressive features, Trevisani said, including designs that allow for future expansion.

Louisville’s Lynn Family Stadium opened in 2020 with a capacity of 11,700 that can be expanded to 15,300. Weidner Field in Colorado Springs, which opened in 2021, currently accommodates 8,000 fans for soccer.

Trevisani hopes to build a stadium that will seat 12-to-15,000 fans. United leads the USL in home attendance this season at 10,474 per home match.

“Louisville’s stadium is phenomenal,” Trevisani said. “We’d love to have something like that, but we would have to do it in phases. We have to be realistic because construction costs have gone way up the last couple years. We may have to build something smaller than we want initially and expand as we go.”

Trevisani said putting a price tag on the project is premature until United settles on a site, but he added that club ownership intends to “take the lead” on financing.

Prior to the 2021 bond election, United ownership commmitted to paying $10 million toward construction costs and $22.5 million for rent and concessions over the span of a 25-year lease if the project was approved.

Now Trevisani is planning to create a private-public partnership with sponsorships and potential city and state government outlay incentives helping to augment ownership’s investment.

“Ownership will do its part and make a major commitment,” he said, “but to do this right we need a lot of people to do a little bit.”

Trevisani envisions a facility that is open daily and hosts non-soccer events such as boxing, professional wrestling and NCAA competitions.

He is open to hosting high school championships and remains hopeful of bringing a women’s pro soccer franchise to Albuquerque. A bid for the latter requires a soccer-specific stadium, Trevisani said.

New Mexico is one of several USLC teams playing home games at baseball or multi-use facilities, but the league is no longer accepting new franchises without stadium plans in place. Expansion teams are being added in Jacksonville, Rhode Island, Iowa and New Orleans over the next three seasons, and each will be primary stadium tennants.

“We were probably lucky to get in when we did,” Trevisani said. “But the USL is moving forward and we need to move with it. We’ve come a long way in four years, building a training center and putting a lot of pieces in place for success. We knew there would be roadblocks, too. A soccer stadium is a big investment but we’re making progress. We’re going to keep driving forward.”

GAME DAY: NM united at San Diego Loyal SC, Sunday, 4 p.m., espn+ (streaming), no radio


• New Mexico (11-9-11): Sunday’s match carries plenty of importance for United, which is trying to lock up a postseason berth. It’s a tough matchup against the USL Championship’s top-scoring team, meaning goalkeeper Alex Tambakis figures to be tested early and often. Tambakis has had a solid season with six clean sheets, including one in his last outing at Las Vegas. He has 59 saves and 30 goals conceded but has not often enjoyed the luxury of playing with a lead. New Mexico is tied for 20th in the USLC with 35 goals scored. Getting forward Jerome Kiesewetter back from injury figures to help. He came on as a late substitute at Las Vegas and was in the starting 11 against LA Galaxy II.

• San Diego (18-9-5): It remains to be seen what kind of lineup Loyal SC coach Landon Donovan employs Sunday. His club is locked into second place in the USLC Western Conference with two matches remaining and seemingly has only momentum at stake. Still, Donovan has plenty of firepower at his disposal, including Kyle Vassell, who ranks ninth in the league in goals scored (14) and shots (64). Vassell scored in San Diego’s 1-1 draw with United on May 7 in Albuquerque. Thomas Amang has 10 goals for Loyal SC and do-it-all midfielder Tumi Moshobane (six goals, seven assists, 44 chances created) has 31 appearances. Koke Vegas (71 saves, 41 goals conceded) is the primary goalkeeper.

NOTEWORTHY: Late goals and draws have been the story in previous meetings between NMU and San Diego. New Mexico’s Ilija Ilic scored the equalizer four minutes into second-half stoppage time in a 1-1 draw in 2021. United’s Harry Swartz netted the tying goal at 90+4 minutes in this season’s 1-1 draw in Albuquerque.… New Mexico could have an opportunity to clinch a playoff berth Sunday depending on Saturday’s late results. NMU (44 points) would need a win combined with a loss by Rio Grande Valley, Oakland or El Paso (43 points apiece).

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