ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque city councilors are demanding answers from the Keller Administration about the future of an artificial indoor field. A Larry Barker investigation uncovered the City of Albuquerque spent almost a quarter of a million dollars to buy the artificial turf playing field for a private company, the Duke City Gladiators.

“I think it would be great to make sure the funds stay in Albuquerque that belong to Albuquerque,” says City Councilor Brook Bassan. Albuquerque city councilors, grilling the parks and rec director about why the city put nearly $240,000 in state and city funding, towards a field for the Duke City Gladiators.

“Albuquerque taxpayers were spent to purchase an artificial turf playing field for the Gladiators stadium in Rio Rancho,” Bassan said.

As a Larry Barker investigation revealed, the City of Albuquerque bought the field with city funds and then was looking for the state to reimburse them. The state of New Mexico refused the request because the use of public funds for a private business is against state law.   Chief Administrative Officer Lawrence Rael said, “We could have purchased it, roll it up – it’s a piece of carpet – and put it somewhere in a building and left it there for three or four years until we decided to build a building.”

But instead, they entered into an agreement with the Gladiators and the Rio Rancho Events Center. “Benefit the citizens through supporting this sports and recreation activity, which citizens from around the region attend,” said Parks and Recreation Director Dave Simon.

Simon says the turf also gets used by Albuquerque youth in programs such as the Boys and Girls Club. He says what the mayor has told us before, that eventually, the goal is to bring the team – and the turf – back to Albuquerque. “It is temporarily positioned in Rio Rancho because that’s where the team is playing that is utilizing the turf field,” says Simon. Simon didn’t see a problem with the city purchasing the equipment and giving it to a private entity. 

City councilors say they want more concrete answers. “If you’re talking eventually, then eventually we need to know what date it’ll be back in Albuquerque,” says City Councilor Louie Sanchez.