Monday, March 27, 2023

Eight Things To Know About The United Soccer Stadium Study

Preferred Sites For Soccer Stadium Would Involve Moving Homes and Businesses


During New Mexico United’s July 25 game, Mayor Tim Keller joined New Mexico United President Peter Trevisani to announce that a $50 million bond proposal would be presented to the Albuquerque City Council to build a multi-use stadium that could serve as the new home stadium for United. The proposal will be presented to City Council on Tuesday, August 2. If approved the bond proposal will go on the November ballot for a vote. The bond will add to the $8 million that New Mexico United has already raised for the stadium. Several sites are still under review for the multi-use stadium, many of them located in Downtown Albuquerque. A public survey conducted by the city found that 67 percent of respondents support a new stadium for United. 

“This is the start of an exciting conversation about a facility that could be a game-changer for our community and the state,” Mayor Keller said. “This facility will draw fans from across the state for sporting events, concerts and will be an asset to local businesses in the community. With strong support from Council, Albuquerque families will get the chance to decide on this.” 

Trevisani is also optimistic about the opportunities that a new multi-use stadium will have for both New Mexico United and Albuquerque. “Before we ever kicked a soccer ball, our goal has always been to improve our community with everything we do,” Trevisani said. “This is a massive step toward that goal and—if approved—would create multi-generational change in the state of New Mexico. Together we can transform Albuquerque and our state, and show the entire world what New Mexicans have to offer.”

The Council is expected to vote on the proposal later in the month. If approved, the bond will not raise taxes.

The Proposed Sites

The city sent out its long-anticipated study of possible soccer stadium locations late Friday afternoon in the manner of someone merely spitballing ideas around a water cooler.

"The consultants provide preliminary site proposals, but the city has not yet made any determinations," a statement that included links to the full text of the study and an executive summary read. "The project will move through an extensive public input process before any further steps are taken."

But the details are considerably more dramatic than that FYI tone under which they were delivered.

Possible sites include oft-mentioned standbys like 12th and I-40 and the Rail Yards, but the two "preferred" sites are actually brand-new entrants to the public conversation—ones that would involve taking over streets and relocating homes and businesses in either Barelas or South Broadway. (The question raised last week in Downtown Albuquerque News about why the city was sending out letters of interest to local property owners seems to have been answered by implication.)

The report also namedrops other possible greater Downtown locations—including the Wells Park Walker Property—without offering any details other than to label them as secondary "sites to consider."

The minimum price tag of $65 million, meanwhile, is still daunting and all but guaranteed to be a point of controversy.

Whether you find the prospect of a brand new soccer stadium to be tantalizing, off-putting or a harbinger of massive and possibly scary neighborhood-level tumult, this much is clear: Things just got a lot more real on Friday. 

Then, on cue, Mayor Tim Keller announced Saturday that he would attempt to put the matter to a public vote in November in the form of a $50 million bond issue, something that the City Council is set to take up next month.

It's going to be a busy 15 weeks. Here are the highlights of the report:

1.) As expected, the Rail Yards is on the shortlist
The location would be directly south of the main buildings (read the consultant's pros and cons of the site), though this assumes that state historic regulators would go along with the destruction or relocation of the old turntable on the site. Either way, it's likely to be a tight squeeze and would need to coordinate somewhat with the renovation of existing buildings, making the whole business all the trickier.

2.) But coming out of left field are two Rail Yards-adjacent sites, and they are the "preferred" options
One is at Coal and Broadway (pros and cons), even though, as the study notes, the option "would require displacement/relocation of current businesses." It's the same story with a site at Second and Iron (pros and cons), which would require the acquisition of a couple of square blocks worth of homes and businesses, including a large brick structure on First owned by the Albuquerque Journal. It would also involve cutting First off at Iron. Despite those obvious challenges—and the fact that two key property owners told us last week they were not interested in selling—the two sites have been designated as the "preferred" options based on a whole host of factors beginning on page 224 of the study.

3.) The three Rail Yards sites could come with a new Rail Runner stop
The move could have the effect of turning stops on the train line into de facto park-and-ride locations for the stadium, potentially easing the burden on Downtown area streets if people can be convinced to use the service.

4.) 12th and I-40 is still a contender
Presently vacant land to the southwest of the intersection would be used for this option (pros and cons), which seems to be the least technically complicated place to build and the easiest in terms of fan access and parking. But one of the cons of the site the consultants list is its location "1.34 miles from the center of Downtown."

5.) Project costs start at $65 million
The consultant only ran the numbers for the preferred sites of Coal and Broadway ($70-84 million, depending on some particulars) and Second and Iron ($65-79 million). 

6.) The consultants say to build in some flexibility
They recommend an "initial capacity of 10,000-12,000," but also to "allow for future expansion opportunities up to 15,000 should demand dictate." (The capacity of Isotopes Park is 13,500.) They also recommend  standing-room-only spaces for extra capacity and building something that could generally be used for a variety of non-soccer events

7.) The study mentions two Wells Park sites, but only in passing
Under the heading "additional sites to consider," it lists parcels at Sixth and I-40 and Sixth and Summer. The list comes with a map that is not exactly zoomed in but appears to show this area in the northwest part of the neighborhood as the Sixth and I-40 site, which is home to well over a dozen businesses, including Bow and Arrow Brewing. The Sixth and Summer site appears to be nothing less than the Walker Property, which the city is presently attempting to turn into a park (an update is coming later this week) plus the square block directly to the north, which has at least a dozen homes on it. But other than that brief mention, the report does not go into detail about the two sites. (Needless to say, we'll be following up.)

8.) Other unexplained secondary sites include the main post office
That shaded area on the map appears to encompass the area surrounded by Mountain, the railroad tracks, Lomas and Broadway. Outside of Downtown proper, a site near César Chávez and I-25 is also highlighted. And perhaps as a counterfactual, Isotopes Park and UNM's University Stadium also get a mention.


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