New Mexico United currently plays games at the Rio Grande Credit Union Field at Isotopes Park. Credit: Andy Lyman

The Albuquerque City Council voted nearly unanimously late Monday night to get the ball rolling on a privately funded soccer stadium for New Mexico’s United Soccer League (USL) Championship team. 

Councilors voted 7 to 2 in favor of a lease agreement that will charge New Mexico United $35,000 a year for about 7 acres of Balloon Fiesta Park land owned by the city. United plans on funding a $30 million stadium that will fit about 6,000 spectators on the property and will also fork over 10 percent of revenue generated from parking. 

The Council’s vote was one of the last pieces of the puzzle needed to make things official. The city’s Environmental Planning Commission last week approved the new stadium after considering the possible impact on the surrounding neighborhoods. The move toward a stadium is a big win for United, since the USL has made it clear it doesn’t intend on keeping franchise rights for teams without a devoted field. United currently plays home games at the Rio Grande Credit Union Field at Isotopes Park, where the soccer team has a sublease with the city’s Minor League Baseball team. 

But as is often the case, not everyone likes the idea of cutting into balloon park land for a professional soccer stadium. 

Albuquerque voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposal in 2021 to use general obligation bonds to fund a stadium near Downtown. The latest plan puts nearly all of the financial obligations on the team. Local state legislators earmarked about $13 million in capital outlay money for infrastructure improvements at the balloon park, but United plans to shell out $30 million to build the stadium itself. Still, Councilors Brook Bassan and Renee Grout voted against the deal. They both made it clear they like the team and what it does for the city, but that they were uneasy about some of the specifics. 

Grout said she thought there might be better locations for a stadium that won’t impact the yearly Balloon Fiesta. Bassan peppered the Keller administration during Monday’s meeting with questions about the lease and later noted that capital outlay money means, “taxpayers are still putting in dollars.”

“I love United. I do. I like them. I’ve been to a game, I should go to more,” Bassan said. “But this is not about whether or not I like United.”

United’s majority owner, Peter Trevisani, said in a statement just after Monday night’s vote that the team is “excited” to be one step closer toward a “privately-funded stadium that will be for all New Mexicans.”

“We still have a lot of work to do, and are honored to represent our incredible state. Somos Unidos,” Trevisani said.

Andy Lyman is a veteran New Mexico journalist. He is currently the editor of The Paper.