Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller, left, announced plans to offer a stadium bond to voters during a New Mexico United game last month. He is pictured with city councilors Cynthia Borrego, Pat Davis and Lan Sena, and New Mexico United President Peter Trevisani. The council has since received numerous public comments criticizing the proposal. (Roberto E. Rosales / Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – As they consider putting a $ 50 million stadium bond issue on the ballot this fall, Albuquerque city councilors hear an assault from opponents calling the project a misuse of resources public at a time when the needs are much more urgent.

The 143 pages of written public comments submitted ahead of Monday’s city council meeting mainly concerned the multi-purpose stadium proposed as the new home for the New Mexico United football team. Critics outnumbered supporters about 13 to 1; they called the idea “reckless”, “thoughtless” and “blatant” and expressed concern that a state-funded downtown stadium would displace low-income residents while enriching a few selected people. One detractor called the project “a document for private industry that adds no value to the lives of ordinary people who make up the community.”

Several commentators have argued that the football team should use an existing public place – including the city-owned Isotopes Park it currently shares with the baseball team of the same name – or pay to build its own. Stadium. Many have complained that the city has much more pressing concerns, including the instability caused by COVID-19 and the growing number of people living on its streets.

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“After nearly 17 months of enduring a major public health emergency, a massive economic crisis and exasperating inadequacies in our social programs, it is deaf to spend millions of dollars on a new stadium,” Sydney Tellez wrote.

Mayor Tim Keller last month announced his willingness to get the $ 50 million bond issue in the Nov. 2 poll. Councilors Isaac Benton and Brook Bassan are co-sponsoring legislation to send the question to voters. The board is to make this decision at its August 16 meeting.

Benton said he was not surprised by the wave of opposition, calling it an expected reaction to “big government and big business making a deal,” but that he does not assess public sentiment by calling it. based only on comments sent by email. As a downtown city councilor, Benton said he believes a stadium could have a positive impact, but the city should strike a strong community benefits deal with the neighborhood of its choice.

Bassan, meanwhile, said the negative public reaction had given her pause for thought, but that she believed an election was the best way to deal with the matter.

“I really wonder if a stadium should be built or not; However, it is also one more reason for me to push for it to be put on the ballot, ”she said in an interview. “Obviously, there are so many opinions going across the spectrum. This is something where I think every individual opinion should count.

A few people wrote to the council in support of the project, largely highlighting the associated construction activity. And four people – including New Mexico United president Peter Trevisani and team communications director David Carl – pleaded for the stadium in live public commentary at the last city council meeting.

Team fan Carlos Tenorio – who has said he is known as ‘Sombrero Man’ at United games – said the city needs a stadium “for our beloved football team. To help the city center.

“The stadium is not just for the here and now in Albuquerque, but for the future – for my children and my grandchildren, and 16, 17 generations of Tenorios who will be here in Albuquerque,” ​​he said. he declared to the council.

Keller’s $ 50 million bond proposal came after a Denver-based consultant conducted a feasibility analysis recommending a 10,000 to 12,000-seat stadium that would cost between $ 65 million and $ 70 million before costs acquisition of land – and even more with an additional awning. The company, CAA-ICON, evaluated four potential locations in the greater downtown area and identified two as “preferred” sites: Second Street / Iron and Coal / Broadway.

Consultants assumed a United-dominated annual events schedule, but also two annual high school sporting events and two concerts, although local promoters said this would likely provide limited concert opportunities. Consultants said the stadium could also host smaller events like weddings, banquets and carnivals.

Officials say they won’t pick a location until voters approve the bonds, which the city would repay with gross tax revenue. Taxes would not increase, as the city would essentially replace the recently repaid bond debt with new stadium bond debt.

Several critics who wrote to city council pointed out that they were fans of New Mexico United, but didn’t think a big investment in a public stadium made sense.

“While I deeply enjoy the New Mexico United games and appreciate the city’s efforts to provide family-friendly activities, I have also personally experienced the deep economic and emotional hardships of the lack of investment in the city. city ​​in other areas that affect its residents, ”Italia Aranda wrote, noting that the city should instead allocate additional resources to developing affordable housing or supporting families who have suffered during the pandemic.

A spokeswoman for Keller’s office said the city is already investing in public safety, youth programs and homeless services, but should simultaneously consider other opportunities.

“We also need to look to the future and invest in projects that, if done right, can uplift our entire state while protecting our historic neighborhoods and building an economy that works for everyone,” the said. Mayor Ava Montoya’s spokesperson in a written statement, adding that the city has already started conversations with the communities of Barelas and South Broadway.

She said the stadium could have uses beyond United that could generate income, and the football team would pay rent to help pay off obligations – as the Isotopes do.

However, the city has yet to make any revenue projections for the proposed facility.

A resident wrote to city council that asking voters to approve funding without saying where the stadium would go is “putting the cart before the horse” and that the community should have more information before making a decision.

Many email writers specifically expressed concern that a new downtown stadium would gentrify historic neighborhoods and potentially result in displacement.

“As many people living in these areas cannot even afford the ticket price to see a United Soccer game,” Mercy Marrujo wrote.

One writer complained that the CAA-ICON study did not sufficiently study the economic ramifications of the project, while another said the city must have better ideas for economic development than “subsidizing infrastructure costs of a private company ”.

“There is no quick fix to the problems plaguing (Albuquerque) and, even if there were, it wouldn’t take the form of a minor league football stadium. When businesses and storefronts are empty all over town, what makes you think that setting up a giant stadium in the city center will suddenly bring these businesses back to life or that new ones will suddenly thrive in and around? of this stage, ”wrote Alex Curtas. “Please be more creative with your ideas on how to help ABQ and let NM United pay for their own stadium.”

Trevisani said United are looking for the same kind of public-private partnership that the Isotopes have in their city-owned park – an arrangement that he says has proven to be fruitful and valuable to the community as a whole.

Ultimately, however, he said letting the voters decide is the “responsible… and right thing to do” thing.

“Let’s see what the public has to say,” Trevisani said in an interview. “We live in a big city and it is diverse. I think we can’t wait to hear from everyone and see what voters think about it in November. “