A culture of entertainment and inclusiveness, or that of performative allyship? As New Mexico United (United) and the City of Albuquerque (CABQ) move forward with efforts to build a multi-use stadium, it is critical to address the huge elephant in the room: an environment permeated with racism, homophobia and heavy drinking. Is this the legacy of USL in New Mexico?
I attended my first United game on Cinco de Mayo, 2019. I was excited for more sporting events in Albuquerque, for increased revenue for the state, and by the crowd’s passion for our new team. I have not lost that enthusiasm—I love soccer and I love New Mexico—but what I and others have witnessed at games has me questioning where we draw the line. This is only exacerbated by the stadium’s $65 to $70 million price tag and proposed location.
If you have attended a United game, you have heard the announcement played throughout the event calling on fans to suspend use of racist and homophobic slurs, as well as throwing food and garbage at players. But once the announcement is over, who monitors the fans? Firsthand accounts detail parents fully passed out in their seats while their children sit beside them; entire beers splashed on sober fans during gameplay; and rundown food and beverage servers left to cut off unruly fans when they’ve had too much to drink. The homophobic and racist slurs don’t end with United’s well-intentioned but woefully insufficient announcements, either. At United’s Pride game on June 12, my partner and I were approached by a man in the parking lot who asked what it “feels like to be a f*****.” His buddy’s excuse? “He’s just really drunk.”
CABQ and United have two proposed sites for the new stadium: Second and Iron in Barelas and Coal and Broadway, just outside Barelas. CABQ hired CAA ICON to complete a study of the impact of building the new stadium. Unsurprisingly, this report includes no mention of how the stadium will be paid for. Why is this omission so problematic? According to the Brookings Institution, “A new sports facility has an extremely small (perhaps even negative) effect on overall economic activity and employment. No recent facility appears to have earned anything approaching a reasonable return on investment. No recent facility has been self-financing in terms of its impact on net tax revenues.” Essentially, the stadium will cost New Mexicans money, displace low-income residents as they are priced out of their homes, gentrify a historic neighborhood, and bring thousands of drunk fans Downtown. That is not a legacy to be proud of.