Monday, May 29, 2023

Not So United

Soccer Fans React to the United Stadium Proposal


On July 25 Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller, in a performance atop the tailgate of a pickup truck that was somehow an impression of both Howard Dean and Jeb Bush, announced a proposal to bond $50 million to build a new multi-use stadium. Although the City Council had yet to take procedural action to put the proposal on the ballot, the mayor’s announcement formalized a debate that has smoldered among fans of the New Mexico United. Should we use public dollars to fund the construction of what is being called a multi-use stadium? Readers will note, however, that the primary use of the facility would be the home of the popular and, as of lately, polarizing professional soccer team.

From site selection concerns to philosophical differences on the use of public dollars, Albuquerque will continue to debate the issue until November 2, 2021, when municipal voters will make a decision on the proposal. This made us curious to hear from United fans on their thoughts. We reached out to our readers via Facebook and received some impassioned responses.

United We Stand

Joshua Gabaldon writes, “I think this soccer stadium is and will always be about community. That’s exactly what N.M. United has done is bring this community together as one. One united body of individuals from many different backgrounds. Although we don’t need a stadium to achieve this unity. A stadium, no matter how it is presented, is just a building at the end of the day. A stadium isn’t going to save the Downtown area or any area it is located in by just going in itself. It will, in fact, bring everyone together to see what we need to change in these areas. It will bring entrepreneurs in the area wanting to start a new business, investors looking to build more hotels and apartments in the area. Along with so much more. With that our youth will have outlets to succeed instead of feeling left behind as our public schools have done so often in this state. Such a small investment for the potential that this thing can do for our state as a whole.” 

Kevin Wilhelm is in favor of the stadium and wrote, “I am absolutely in favor of a stadium for N.M. United in the Downtown area of Albuquerque! Downtown has long been an afterthought for Albuquerque. The energy and business that N.M. United brings to the community it astounding is a step in the right direction for N.M. We have shelters, we have hospitals and rehab clinics. While they need our support, a stadium could help draw people from outside of N.M., which is something that we would benefit from! We will lose N.M. United if this stadium is not built, and that would be a tragedy.”

On the Fence

Nick Bachicha is undecided and writes, “I've been following this pretty closely. I'm still on the fence. Personally, it feels like a step in the right direction for New Mexico. A new stadium could bring new opportunities for larger employers to locate here. The other side of me feels like it is irresponsible to spend taxpayer money on a stadium when we are a low-income city. That money should probably be put to other social services needed in the areas that they are planning to construct the stadium over. If it did appear on the ballot, I would probably vote for it, because I don't want United to leave, but I would have some hesitation. I would like it if they could make it a dome over an outdoor stadium. Albuquerque doesn't really have a lot of good indoor venues for concerts, so during the winter a lot of shows don't visit.“

Carlos Contreras, notably a former employee of the mayor, is against the proposal, stating, “You won’t convince me that a 'shiny new stadium' makes the neighborhood better—that’s about as silly as it gets. A Presbyterian satellite health center? Yes, please! A new location for Warehouse 508, which will be ushered out of Downtown by the 'rail trail'? Sure! Revamp to the Rail Yards with infrastructure to support daily vending by a multitude of South Broadway and Barelas makers? Totally! A stadium that is calling itself a 'cultural center' to get on a ballot?!? No thanks. Someone should tell 'Pete' that the NHCC is about a good quarterback’s arm away from where he wants to put his 'cultural center.' … smh.”

Sheila Bulthuis is also undecided, saying, “I'm not for or against yet. I feel like we just don't have enough information yet. Lots of questions on the financial side: How would the bond be repaid? How much 'skin in the game' does the team/owners have? Where is the money coming from for the land purchase? But also in terms of the location: Who is going to make the final decision on the location, and how? Will the impacted neighborhoods be involved in the process? In what way? It seems weird to me to ask people to say yes or no to the stadium without even knowing for sure where it will be. I'm a United fan. I'm a season ticket holder. The games and the community have been some of my favorite parts of living here for the past three years. And I really want them to get a stadium. But I need to know a lot more about how this is all going to work before I can say that I'm in favor of this plan.


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