By Juan Baeza / NM News Port
A new poll shows that most Albuquerque voters don’t want to spend public money on a new stadium for the New Mexico United soccer team, but UNM students say it’s a good idea.
Albuquerque voters will decide on Nov. 2 whether the city will borrow up to $50 million for the construction of a stadium to be leased to the New Mexico United professional soccer team. Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller has said he will not push for the stadium if the bond vote fails.
The team has pledged to spend $10 million on construction. The city also expects to receive $8 million from the New Mexico Legislature.
The New Mexico United team has a strong following in the city of Albuquerque. In 2019 the team’s league, The United Soccer League, reported that Albuquerque’s soccer club led the league in home attendance, averaging 12,693 per home game. UNM students are among those fans.
Justine Collister, a 20-year-old journalism student, said she supports a new stadium so the soccer team doesn’t have to share the city’s baseball stadium.
“I’ve worked for the Albuquerque Isotopes in the past and have witnessed how hard it is for the grounds crew to transform the baseball field to a soccer field time after time,” Collister said.
Collister also explained the grounds crew had to do to prep the pitch for the soccer games.
“They have to add turf to the dirt portion of the field. They have to paint all the lines, which is way more coverage than what they usually do for baseball,” she said.
Collister also said the new stadium would also help eliminate scheduling hassles for the overlapping baseball and soccer seasons.
A News Port reporter who interviewed 33 random students on campus recently found that only five opposed the stadium while the rest said they supported the idea, several enthusiastically.
One of the possible locations for the stadium is the railyards, just east of downtown. The railyards were chosen as a possible site because the city already owns the site, and it is very close to downtown and big enough for a stadium with parking.
Michaela Helean, another student at the University of New Mexico, said she isn’t sold on the project.
“We should have other priorities right now,” Helean said, suggesting the city should focus on education or infrastructure.
She also said she worries that people could get bored with soccer, and attendance could drop, making the investment not worth it.
Helean said she wanted to know more about the multipurpose aspect that backers are promoting.
“As a voter, I want to know what they are exactly using it for,” she said.
The city says the stadium will be used primarily for NM United home games, but can also be a venue for performing arts, concerts, and high school sports events. This list could increase over time, but so far, these are the activities the city looks forward to.
The proposed stadium capacity is 10,000, with the option to be expanded to 15,000 seats.
Not all students interviewed were aware of the stadium vote and some were apathetic. Out of the 33 that were asked, 3 said that they did not care for the idea or whether it was built or not.
City voters will have their final decision in the Nov. 2 ballot.
Juan Baeza is a reporter for New Mexico News Port and can be reached on twitter @juanbae13.