The mayor of Albuquerque wants a soccer stadium. He wants it badly. Since 2021, he has been begging city leaders and the public to let him help New Mexico United build a new stadium with taxpayer money. Two years ago, he finally got the city to put up a stadium proposition for a public vote. He spent weeks begging residents to approve the proposal so that the soccer team could receive about $50 million towards construction of a new stadium. Where did the mayor come up with the $50 million dollar figure? As of today, I still can’t find that answer.
But the answer from the public was NO. As one local news station summarized it: “Voters overwhelmingly said no”. He lost and told everyone that he “would respect the voter’s decision”. A few months later, he changed his mind. Now, let’s fast-forward to March of this year. Out of nowhere, the mayor shows up and does a press conference on a piece of property that he hopes will be “the future home of a New Mexico United soccer stadium”.
He also surprised us with some important information:
Mayor Tim Keller told the audience that “we’re not giving up and we’re going to do this stadium… This time it is mostly privately funded, but the City’s picking up the infrastructure… Obviously, it’s not a done deal, but I will tell you, permitting and planning and … capital raising is happening right now on the private side. And our goal is this winter to break ground on this site” – Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller, BizJournals, 07/25/2023
Mostly? The perfect word for someone who wants to use public money but pretend as if they barely are using any. Local media tried to get into the details of this new stadium plan, but they got little. According to the mayor, it was “too early” to say anything else because the “new stadium (is) in the infancy stage”.
Later that day, the Mayor’s Office released some numbers for the project:
“The state has granted the city $8.5 million for stadium infrastructure investment, and there’s an additional $5 million in capital outlay. The funds from the capital outlay would be used to build the necessary infrastructure like storm drainage, electrical, plumbing, compensatory parking spaces, etc.” — Albuquerque Business Journal, BizJournal, 07/25/2023
Keep in mind that the mayor started all of this craziness when, in 2021, he started pushing the city to approve a resolution that HE STARTED about the stadium. But the way that this mayor presents things to city officials and local citizens is terrible. He waits until the last second to tell people things and then gets surprised when he gets push back. If we go back to 2021, we can read stories of him telling a crowd of supporters about his resolution for a potential new stadium. He tells the crowd that he was “sending a resolution to (the city) council…to put a stadium on the ballot”. However, the mayor forgot to do some things. He forgot to inform or even show several city councilors the resolution before he went and discussed it publicly. This means some city leaders still didn’t have any information about a project that the mayor was publicly pushing to start…and start soon. This whole thing comes off as rushed.
One city leader was blunt and said the same thing:
“My vote right now is no because I don’t know anything about it… I believe it’s being rushed… It’s being rushed to the people who were the ones who are going to have to pay to make this happen”— City Councilor Trudy Jones, KOAT, 07/29/21
Neighborhood Association president, Frances Armijo, also noticed how rushed this process felt. Armijo noticed that the mayor never even thought about a strong Community Benefits Agreement. The reason he didn’t was because he didn’t have time to do that. A CBA only got proposed for the first time within two weeks of the bill was finalized.
“It was never in the agenda to consider these things. If they didn’t consider it in the beginning, what do they care about now? This is nothing but a Trojan horse, ladies and gentlemen.” – Frances Armijo, SourceNM.com, 11/05/2021
If the people in charge of the city are in the dark on information, did anyone expect the public to be any different? As one reader told the local newspaper, even though the vote was in just a few weeks, voters still had no idea where the money for this project would come from, the total cost of it all, where the stadium will be built or how much the team was putting up. No wonder the vote went the way it did.
Back to today. What are the concrete plans for this new stadium proposal? Well, this project “will be mostly privately funded” as if that should make anyone feel better. Outside of that, the only other numbers that we know are from the mayor’s office ($8.5 m + $5 m). Do we have a site plan? No. Building infrastructure plan? No. Has the current land’s master plan been changed to allow for a stadium? No.
Thankfully, this time around, the mayor has gotten the city involved in the discussion around the stadium so that everyone has answers. Right? Let’s ask a city councilor if the building of a stadium would make the city increase residents taxes?
“We can’t positively say it will increase and we can’t positively say it won’t increase” — City Councilor Trudy Jones, KOAT, 07/29/21
Nevermind. Everything is still the same.