It’s been more than a year since Albuquerque voters balked at public funding for a new stadium, but local leaders are still trying to help New Mexico United find a new place to play.
The options now under consideration include Balloon Fiesta Park.
Mayor Tim Keller’s spokeswoman said the city has had ongoing discussions with United “about multiple (stadium) sites that won’t require additional city funds.” That includes city-owned Balloon Fiesta Park in Northeast Albuquerque, where spokeswoman Ava Montoya said there is room to build around/outside of the area that balloons presently use to launch and land.
New Mexico United, an Albuquerque-based professional soccer team, currently shares the city-owned Isotopes Park with the namesake baseball team, but it has pushed for years for a new venue.
A United spokesman said Wednesday the team’s stadium plans remain “a work in progress,” with many details — notably location — still unsettled.
However, David Wiese-Carl, United’s communications director, said the team intends to build the stadium with private funds.
“We heard folks loud and clear, and it’s going to be a privately led stadium,” he said.
If a city site is used, it’s unclear if the land would be donated or leased to the team or if the city would have any ownership stake in the building.
“These details have not been determined yet,” Montoya said in an emailed response to Journal questions.
Wiese-Carl said United’s leadership has considered sites around the metro area, but the vision no longer includes Downtown given the opposition such a location encountered previously.
A city-contracted consultant had in 2021 identified two Downtown-area sites as “preferred” locations when the city pondered building a stadium and then leasing it to United. The consultant estimated that would cost $65 million to $70 million based on those locations and a 2022 construction start.
That plan never came to fruition.
City leaders put a $50 million stadium bond out to voters in 2021, but it was roundly rejected. The bond failed by a 30-point margin.
Though the gross receipts tax-backed bond did not require voter approval, Keller said in 2021 his administration would not pursue the project if the bond failed.
However, the city has millions in funding available for a stadium thanks to state appropriations.
The state has contributed $8.5 million so far, though the city has used about $621,000 to date on the 2021 consultant and planning services for the team’s practice field.
There is another $5 million for the project included in a 2023 state capital outlay bill currently awaiting Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s signature.
“We’re interested in using our state funds for their intended purpose and utilizing city land,” Montoya said in a statement.
City officials have announced a Thursday afternoon news conference at Balloon Fiesta Park to provide “updates about a potential site for (a) new multi-use sports complex.”