While nothing is set in stone, a viable location within Balloon Fiesta Park has been identified as a possible site to construct a privately-funded soccer stadium for New Mexico United, according to city officials.
During a Thursday news conference at the park, Albuquerque’s Chief Administrative Officer, Lawrence Rael, said a large parking area to the east of the launch field, avoided by balloonists because of tall power lines running along the north-south perimeter, has enough room to accommodate a stadium.
The area, previously a sand and gravel quarry, sits in a depression. Consequently, Rael said, a stadium would have “a low profile, and would not impact the day-to-day flights of balloonists or the use of the park in a major way.”
The state has already granted the city $8.5 million for stadium infrastructure improvements and the governor currently has a bill before her, though she has not yet signed it, to provide an additional $5 million.
Even though the infrastructure improvements at Balloon Fiesta Park would benefit a privately-funded stadium, it would not be a violation of the state’s Anti-Donation Clause, Rael said.
Thus far, New Mexico United has not submitted a design plan for a stadium and there is no timeline for when a location decision will be made. While no one from New Mexico United was at the news conference, team owner and CEO Peter Trevisani issued a statement: “Seeing the City of Albuquerque’s and the State of New Mexico’s commitment to improving Balloon Fiesta’s Park is inspiring. … We’re excited to see it continue to grow and improve for year-round use by New Mexicans. We’re enthusiastic about what is coming next for New Mexico, and we look forward to being part of that growth.”
Mayor Tim Keller emphasized that should Balloon Fiesta Park ultimately be the location choice, no portion of the land will be sold or gifted to New Mexico United, which in addition to coming up with the lion’s share of the money for construction, would likely have to lease the land from the city.
In considering site locations, Keller said other criteria included:
- Leveraging existing infrastructure, such as parking and available land, and avoid putting undue burdens on the city for additional infrastructure for surrounding neighborhoods.
- A zone change should not be required. “And that just reflects the fact that embedded in our zoning is already the community assessment of what’s appropriate for a certain area and what’s not.”
- The site should be accessible by public transit and via existing arterials and roads.
- Significant amounts of city funding should not be used. “The city’s contribution is really channeling the state funding that can be used, and that is relevant for this project,” Keller said.
Dave Simon, director of the Albuquerque Parks and Recreation Department, said that Balloon Fiesta Park consists of 360 acres, of which 86 acres is the launch field. There is plenty of room to build a stadium “outside of the primary launch and landing field that would not interfere with fiesta,” he said.
“It’s a good idea to continue to support the sports and recreation economy in Albuquerque,” Simon said. “This is a city that is a strong sports town, and you can see that in turnout and support for basketball and for attendance at Isotopes baseball. Our city really benefits from the influx of athletes and fans and visitors for sporting events of all kinds.”