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Albuquerque voters reject New Mexico United stadium project

USL Championship soccer team New Mexico United has maintained it will continue efforts to develop a multi-purpose stadium in Albuquerque after local residents comprehensively rejected the proposed use of public funding for the project.

The City of Albuquerque and United in September agreed terms on a long-term lease and development agreement for a new stadium project for the team. United, which was founded in June 2018 and currently competes in the second tier of US club football, is seeking to develop a stadium seating 10,000 to 12,000 fans, which had been expected to cost between $65m (£47.6m/€56.1m) and $70m.

The lease and development agreement was due to go into action if voters approved a Stadium Bond in a municipal election scheduled for yesterday (Tuesday). The Bond had been set at $50m, but a $10m commitment had been made by the club to help build the stadium, with an additional $8m coming from state appropriations. United was also guaranteeing another $22m in rent payments over the next 25 years.

Nevertheless, the stadium project had been criticised by locals, especially because of the cost to taxpayers. The Albuquerque Journal newspaper reported that the Stadium Bond at 10pm local time was on the wrong end of 65% of votes cast when the backers of the project admitted defeat.

New Mexico United spokesman David Carl said: “While United will continue its pursuit of a multi-use facility that will allow us to bring a professional women’s soccer team and other community-driven programming to New Mexico, we will not be actively pursuing the proposed sites, including South Broadway and Barelas.

“United has said from day one that we will only support a location where the local community is behind the project and the stadium can uplift all, not just a few. That work starts immediately.”

Mayor Tim Keller, who had backed the measure, added: “In considering a publicly owned, multi-use stadium for affordable fun for Albuquerque families, we felt it was important to let voters choose if they supported bonding that would not increase taxes.

“We appreciate everyone, on both sides, who took part in the vigorous conversation over the past months and showed up to decide this important issue for our city.”

Backers of the project said that it would create jobs, mainly through construction, and serve to potentially reenergise the downtown area. However, critics raised concerns that a stadium could price existing residents out of historic Downtown-area neighbourhoods.

Others questioned why the City should invest so heavily in a sports team in only its third year of existence, when there are other pressing social issues such as homelessness.

In response to yesterday’s vote, the Stop the Stadium group that was advocating for housing rather than the facility, said: “The stadium bond was a clear attempt aimed at replacing working-class Albuquerque residents with more affluent people, all in the interest of profit.

“Tonight, Albuquerque voted against gentrification. By voting against the pro-corporate stadium development project, the people of Albuquerque also made it clear they want public resources used on other community and social priorities, specifically responding more effectively to the severe housing crisis in this city, including housing all (not just some) of those experiencing homeless.”

United currently plays at Rio Grande Credit Union Field at Isotopes Park, a minor league baseball stadium.

Image: USL