Sunday Opinion

Journal Editors Knock Keller, Reject Hasty Soccer Stadium Pitch

The Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board has recommended a “no” vote on the soccer stadium bond, at least as it’s been presented so far, writing that while a new stadium is “not a bad idea,” the proposal was rushed, many unknowns remain, and the alleged link between building new sports facilities and “economic development, income growth or job creation” just isn’t backed by fact.

Most damning though was the Journal’s hit against Mayor Tim Keller for using the allure of a new stadium as a political tool to garner favor with voters. 

“This was a rush job unveiled by Mayor Tim Keller and other supporters…just three months before early voting,” the Editorial Board wrote.

“Keller made the public push days after the city received a 350-plus-page feasibility study by a private company. At Keller’s urging, the council voted 7–2 to advance the question to the ballot — but not without trepidation expressed even by some who voted yes. And at least one councilor who voted yes, Lan Sena, has questioned whether that’s the best use of the money. For that matter, the mayor, in the midst of a reelection campaign and perhaps surprised by pushback on the project, still supports the stadium but no longer prominently leads the charge.” 

— The Albuquerque Journal, October 15, 2021 Editorial

The New Mexico United soccer team boasted about a poll in January that allegedly found 63% support for a new stadium; however, it’s unclear if the question made clear that taxpayers would cover the majority of the costs. 

While Keller is using the stadium as a carrot to bribe voters this election, the major push appears to be coming from United owner Peter Trevisani, who said in January, “I can’t think of a better catalyst for our downtown economy,” according to KRQE. “…It attracts commerce, businesses will be built around it and it will just breathe new life to a section of our state that is desperate for that.”

But as the Journal Editorial Board points out, there is no link between new sports facilities and economic development.

“As far as economic impact, a rash of studies casts doubt on the ‘Build it and they will come’ premise. For example, a Brookings Institution report concluded that academic studies ‘consistently find no discernible positive relationship between sports facility construction and local economic development, income growth or job creation.’ ”

— The Albuquerque Journal, October 15, 2021 Editorial

A more recent poll, paid for by the Paper., found that 59% of respondents were against public bonds for a stadium

“By a wide margin, likely voters oppose public funding to build a new professional soccer stadium. A full 59 percent of likely voters say the city should not issue bonds for a new stadium, compared with 23 percent who say yes. Just 17 percent report being unsure.” 

— the Paper., October 3, 2021

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