ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Last year, a News 13 Larry Barker investigation revealed that city of Albuquerque officials spent about a quarter million dollars in public money on artificial turf for the privately owned Duke City Gladiators. Now, that turf is back in Albuquerque on the heels of the controversy.

The turf was originally used at the Rio Rancho Events Center where the Gladiators played. When Larry Barker raised questions, city officials defended the decision. “It’s a good benefit to support the Gladiator program, which benefits families and children in the entire Metro area,” Dave Simon, Director of Albuquerque Parks and Recreation said in 2022.

The state also raised concerns. The Department of Finance denying the city’s request for reimbursement claiming it violated state law since the turf went to serve a private football team. The state Attorney General also opened an investigation. The city’s own Inspector General concluded the purchase violated the state’s anti-donation rules. Meanwhile, city councilors repeatedly grilled officials about why something Albuquerque taxpayers paid for was sitting in Rio Rancho.

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Friday, Simon announced the turf is now ‘home’ in Albuquerque. “I think it will be a very versatile and valuable piece of equipment here at Expo New Mexico,” said Simon. The markings and logos on the turf will retain the Gladiator’s emblem. Simon couldn’t confirm whether the team would play on the turf at Tingley Coliseum next season. He said the Gladiators will cover the cost of moving it to Tingley though he didn’t have an exact price tag.

The city said the turf will be used for a wide variety of sporting events at Tingley Coliseum. “It’s suitable of course for indoor football, adult and youth indoor football but it’s also adaptable. We can do temporary things on the turf as well. I think it’ll support a wide variety of youth activities on the turf for which the markings are not that significant,” said Simon.

Simon claimed this was always the plan. “We always expected the indoor turf field to be in Albuquerque and specifically be at Expo New Mexico and that promise has been kept,” said Simon.

When Larry Barker asked Simon last year what a request to the legislature for the indoor arena was really for, there was no mention of those plans:

Barker: “Do you not understand that the city of Albuquerque requested this money? … But you don’t know what the project is?”

Simon: “It seems pretty clear it’s to provide funds to improve an indoor arena.”

Barker: “But the city doesn’t own an indoor arena Dave.”

Simon: “So what?”

Now, the city maintains the turf was only temporarily put in Rio Rancho during COVID-19 saying the city’s own inspector general got it all wrong. “We feel very strongly in the accuracy of the city’s legal position in these matters,” Simon continued, “I think it’s unfortunate that they were just so far off base in that report.”

The city will also resubmit its request for reimbursement from the state. The turf will be stored at Expo New Mexico until after the State Fair. It will be used at Tingley Coliseum for at least five years and the partnership between Expo and the city can be renewed for another five years.