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New pilots pavilion to be built at Balloon Fiesta Park

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — If all goes as planned, by this time next year, a new 12,000-square-foot permanent pilots pavilion will replace the large white tent that has traditionally been used for that purpose during the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Festival.

On Tuesday, Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry stood in front of a flat asphalt area at Balloon Fiesta Park where the Sid Cutter Pilots Pavilion will be constructed. The estimated $2.5 million project will go to bid in the next few weeks, with groundbreaking to take place by the end of October.

It is being funded by voter-approved general obligation bonds from 2011 and 2013, and will result in an immediate savings of more than $30,000 each year – the cost of the tent rental that will no longer be required.

Jewel Cutter, the widow of the late ballooning pioneer, was on hand for the announcement. Berry told the crowd that “on a June day in 1971, Sid Cutter took his mom Virginia on a balloon ride,” a small gesture “that started a worldwide phenomenon” and led to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta becoming “one of the premier events in the world.”

A statue of Sid Cutter will be placed in front of the new building. Jewel Cutter said the statue, currently at a foundry in Santa Fe, is being created by well-known New Mexican sculptor Reynaldo “Sonny” Rivera.

The new pavilion, designed by Lee Gamelsky Architects, is intended to have a multi-purpose design so it can be used year-round for myriad events. It will feature a sloping roof system, restrooms and large garage-like doors that can be retracted, creating an “indoor-outdoor connection,” Berry said.

The addition of the building raises the profile of the balloon park, making it a more enticing locale for such things as soccer tournaments, car shows, X-Game competitions and any number of corporate events, Berry said. In addition, the grounds have 75 acres of grass and a “world-class RV park.”

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