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United in sport, divided in support: Albuquerque voters reject $50 million stadium

UPDATE, Nov. 3: Uncertified election returns early Wednesday showed voters overwhelmingly rejected a controversial $50 million bond measure that would've helped pay for a new stadium in Albuquerque, with nearly 66% voting no.

New Mexico United for All — a political action committee bankrolled by the New Mexico United soccer team — had been the biggest fundraiser and spender in the city's election, according to the Associated Press.

ORIGINAL REPORT, Nov. 1: ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico -- For three years, thousands of Albuquerque fans have cheered on New Mexico United soccer players in a baseball stadium.

"It's not ideal," admitted owner Peter Trevisani. "It's a good short-term solution, but not in the long term."

Tuesday is the last day that Albuquerque voters can approve or strike down $50 million for a brand new soccer-specific stadium. New Mexico United has pledged to pay $30 million, with $10 million upfront.

"I think it's a great idea," said Tim Newell, a fan who attended the game on Oct. 20th. "It's what the city needs."

"I'm absolutely in support of the new stadium," said Rosalie Fragoso, who also attended the game. "For one thing, we're huge soccer fans. For another thing, I think it's going to promote economic development for the city of Albuquerque and surrounding areas."

"Stadiums attract people," Trevisani said. "That's how you grow a city. That's how you grow community. That's how you export El Paso and Albuquerque to the world."

Critics ask voters to 'stop the stadium'

The Barelas neighborhood south of downtown Albuquerque is one preferred location for the proposed stadium. Critics argue it would drive up the cost of homes in the area and push out residents who have lived in the area for decades.

"The last thing we need is a stadium," said Anna Lee DeSaulniers, a bartender who used to live in the neighborhood. Because her landlord couldn't find housing during the pandemic, she said she was forced to move out and find another place to live.

“To take taxpayer money away from people who desperately need services for an entertainment project that millionaires would benefit from is wrong," said DeSaulniers, who claims her rent jumped by $700 when she moved out of Barelas.

“It’s really offensive that they are trying to build a stadium with our taxpayer money," said Bex Hampton, who leads a group called 'Stop the Stadium.' "It's a risk that Peter Trevisani and his multimillionaire friends don't want to make."

When asked if he would consider privately fundraising the cost of the stadium, Trevisani said he was making a contribution in addition to other owners of the team.

"Absolutely, it's important that we build stadiums, I believe, in a private-public partnership," Trevisani said. "Everybody is pitching in so we can do it together."

"For a millionaire to ask for our tax dollars when that money could alleviate so much suffering is a slap in the face," DeSaulniers said.

El Paso's future?

El Paso Locomotive players must also play in a baseball stadium. The USL Championship had a goal to have every soccer team play in a soccer-specific stadium by 2020, which did not happen. A USL spokesman did not comment on the league's original goal by deadline.

MountainStar Sports Group, which owns the Chihuahuas and El Paso Locomotive, did clarify the team's short-term goals.

"MountainStar’s goals have been the same since our inception – to improve the quality of life in the Borderplex and to make this region more economically competitive," wrote Angela Olivas, a spokeswoman for MountainStar Sports Group. "We’ve commented for several years that a soccer specific stadium in or near downtown will be another important step in that direction. However, our attention the past 18-24 months has been on the pandemic, and our focus at the moment is on locomotive’s third playoff appearance in three seasons which begins Friday, November 5th at Southwest University Park, and ultimately bringing a championship to everyone in El Paso."

Article Topic Follows: New Mexico

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Kate Bieri

Kate Bieri is a former ABC-7 New Mexico Mobile Newsroom reporter and weekend evening newscast anchor.


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