Democratic State Sen. Katy Duhigg announced her opposition Tuesday to a $50 million bond issue for a pro soccer stadium in her hometown of Albuquerque.

“I’m voting no,” Duhigg wrote on her Facebook page.

State Rep. Joy Garratt is still listening to arguments about public funding for a stadium, which would be the home field of the New Mexico United.

“I’ve held off voting early to study the proposal,” said Garratt, D-Albuquerque. “I love the soccer team. The spirit is terrific. But what does the project actually cost?”

House Majority Leader Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, is an enthusiastic supporter of building a 12,000-seat soccer stadium with mostly public money. He helped persuade state lawmakers to allocate $9 million in public works funding during the last two years as a start for a stadium linked to a cultural center. The money can go toward site selection, land acquisition and brick-and-mortar expenses.

“It’s a multiuse facility that would house other businesses — coffee shops, restaurants, maybe an arts collective. It should be accessible to all of us,” Martínez said.

All three of the lawmakers are sure to support Mayor Tim Keller in his bid for a second term. The fact that they aren’t all backing the stadium proposal Keller endorsed is one sign the bond issue is in trouble.

A more concrete indicator was a recent poll commissioned by The Paper, an Albuquerque weekly. It showed 59 percent of 793 likely voters opposed the stadium bond issue. Twenty-three percent supported it and 17 percent were undecided.

The poll numbers are evidence the public is thinking more clearly than Keller and the Albuquerque City Council, which voted 7-2 to place the bond issue on the November ballot.

Albuquerque is awash in problems, most notably crime. A soccer stadium is a frill in a city that broke its yearly record for homicides — in August.

As with campaigns for publicly funded stadiums across America, the team that would benefit is funding a political action committee and spending liberally on advertising.

New Mexico United’s PAC says the stadium would generate 500 construction jobs. That might be true, but those jobs will end soon enough.

Debt payments on the stadium would last for 20 years. The city of Albuquerque estimated the cost of principal and interest at $3.2 million annually.

After the construction phase, the team’s pitch means another 280 full-time jobs would come with the new venue. It now plays its matches at the Isotopes baseball park.

New Mexico United lists 29 players on its roster, plus a coaching staff of eight. Another 26 people are employed in the team’s front office.

The new stadium would have to create more than 200 other jobs to reach its promised total. New Mexico United wants to land a women’s soccer team for Albuquerque as one means of increasing employment and stadium use.

Martínez says he envisions many of the other new jobs as spinoffs from stadium business.

“We don’t have a huge private employer downtown now,” he said. “Bringing in 12,000 people a couple times a month would be a big gain” for businesses he envisions as part of the stadium complex.

Martínez allows that dedicating more state money to the project is possible.

“We do have quite a bit of capacity now with capital outlay and general fund money,” he said.

Capital outlay is the term state lawmakers use for public works funding they control for their districts. The Albuquerque delegation could pool its money for stadium costs, as it did with the $9 million allotted to get a stadium project underway.

Taking money from the general fund for a stadium in Albuquerque would be controversial and probably difficult. Legislators from other cities might balk.

New Mexico United’s upfront financial commitment to the stadium would be $10 million for construction costs. It also has proposed paying $800,000 a year in rent to the city and at least $100,000 annually from concession sales and other stadium revenues.

The stadium would be publicly owned, meaning it wouldn’t generate any property taxes for the city.

Projections are just that. The skeptic in me remembers countless other professional stadiums where costs were lowballed and revenues didn’t trickle down to the hospitality industry.

Duhigg also has doubts about spending public money on a soccer stadium in a city with so many other needs. She wasn’t keen on being mentioned in this column, even after publicly saying she would vote against the stadium bond issue.

“This is not a fight I am looking to get involved in in any official capacity,” she wrote me in a message.

There’s nothing wrong with New Mexico United coveting a stadium where it would be the primary tenant.

In turn, there’s nothing wrong with wary taxpayers expecting the team to pay for its place of business.

Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at msimonich@sfnewmexican.com or 505-986-3080.

(14) comments

Mangas Coloradas

There has been so many independent studies that show that this is a TERRIBLE waste of taxpayer money. A sports team like any other business should purchase/rent their own venue. The expectation that the taxpayers should do so is particularly egregious.

BARRY SILVER

here's an old grift attached to a local soccer squad and the pie in the sky of a future multi use, multi purpose, multi merchant, multi activity, multi craftsmen, multi multi multi....

a gift for a few and a drain on the many.

LeRoy Sanchez

All these replies have been so negative! Why can’t downtown Albuquerque have something nice and new for its residents and visitors? I’m from NM. The downtown area used to be such a good destination. It can be again. Mayor Keller is a great elected official and wants only the best forhis city.

John Onstad

Simon:

Do the team's owners have proven liquid assets to guarantee this investment? Who are the owners? They need to disclose their financials at least to the City.

$10MM in cash for construction and $900M in rent and fees every year for the term of the lease? BTW how long is their lease for?

The inflated number of jobs (280?) created is laughable!

Khal Spencer

If the people of Albuquerque are foolish enough to get duped by this, I guess that is up to them. I just see where the city will have its hands in the state pocketbook to bail it out after this all goes wrong.

John Tallent

A stadium for Alb is an absolute waste of money despite the temporary jobs that the construction would create; assuming that iy creates some jobs for anyoone who really wants to work. Have not seen that many who would want to work latley.

JT

Ernest Green

The two key takeaways from this proposal, 1. 'Debt payments on the stadium would last for 20 years. The city of Albuquerque estimated the cost of principal and interest at $3.2 million annually' 2. 'It (the team) also has proposed paying $800,000 a year in rent to the city'. Now, they'd already be benefiting from low costs of financing (municipal debt), no obligations toward owning or maintaining the stadium, and an exemption for the outlays toward property tax, yet their proposal is to come in at 25% of actual cost. This is laughable. A banker would laugh at this (ownership is comprised of at least one retired banker). At the very least, at bedrock level minimum, lawmakers ought to turn the screws on ownership for more equitable terms (i.e. 50% cost sharing) or an escalating payment structure based on the value of the franchise (all of which will otherwise accrue solely to ownership). Of these two options I'd guarantee the partners would choose the first but their PAC spending will angle toward neither. ABQ voters will surely sniff out the disrespect in this proposal and vote no.

David Ford

Ernest,

You should send your observations here to the ABQ Journal as a letter to the editor.

The TV ads are sad/funny as they advertise 500 construction jobs (they fail to mention they are TEMPORARY construction jobs) and 280 "other jobs" generally undefined and probably low paying service jobs. Also it is not outside the realm of possibility that at some point this team and/or the franchise will be sold and that could create other issues.

Khal Spencer

[thumbup]

Ernest Green

These observations are not my own, they bear repeating however since this predatory business model continues to work so well. There's much more, unseen while focus is on stadium cost are the various revenue channels (gate and concessions will go to the team I'd expect), though the revenue from parking, signage/advertising, and most significant the naming rights very likely will also go to the team even though its standing is as the tenant and not the owner. This would be in the proposed term sheet and eventual sharing agreement, the city and councilors would agree to assign this revenue away because they are dopes. The new stadium (minus any debt!) would substantially increase the underlying value of the team. Though models exist with what this increase may be, none of the gain will be factored into the cost sharing agreement, none will allocate to player payroll, all will be privatized. Perhaps the largest revenue play is in the real estate surrounding the stadium, location as yet undetermined because the goal (pun intended) is to get in at lowest cost before competing speculators can strike (pun intended!). There are closely held investment prospectus already prepared and distributed toward these commercial real estate projects. Now I'm strongly in favor of private investment and building a franchise where there was none and howling fans crowding to a game but it is underhanded to omit disclosure of the above when predicated on public funding, or to withhold volunteering any of these figures in presentations of shared costs or player payrolls. These deals are one-sided and voters ought to use their leverage to renegotiate far better terms by voting no.

Jim Klukkert

[thumbup]

Mike Johnson

Nothing but welfare for the rich, how could anyone support such a travesty? Only if they are ignorant enough to believe what the politicians say about this. Politicians lie, when will people wise up? Maybe if this is defeated as soundly as it should be, it will signal hope for this state.

John McDivitt

True

Jim Klukkert

[thumbup][thumbup]

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