ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – With a key vote from a city panel, Albuquerque is one step closer to building a New Mexico United soccer stadium at Balloon Fiesta Park, but it’s not a done deal yet. That city panel had to decide Thursday if they should allow a stadium at the park, and where it should go; while some from neighboring communities chimed in with concerns about traffic and noise.
“Balloon Fiesta Park spanning 358 acres constitutes an underutilized yet crucial component of the North I-25 community,” said Silvia Bolivar, senior planner with the city, “The proposed development of a new stadium coupled with necessary infrastructure enhancements will safeguard and preserve the community character.”
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That’s how city planners now see Balloon Fiesta Park: the possible new future home for a New Mexico United soccer stadium. “We’re here to enhance, not to interfere and we’re here to continue to grow New Mexico responsibly,” said Ron Patel, with New Mexico United.
The team and city officials faced the Environmental Planning Commission (EPC) hoped to clear two hurdles Thursday: changing the park master plan to allow a stadium and approving where it could go. The site plan Thursday showed it in place of a parking lot east of the launch field. “The stadium will be a very large investment into the park, maybe the biggest ever into Balloon Fiesta Park and it’ll really further the Balloon Fiesta Park into what we always envisioned it to be,” said Jackie Fishman with Consensus Planning.
Planners say United will spend $30 million on the stadium, while the city will spend more than $13 million in state capital outlay funding on upgrades at the site. Plans call for the stadium to be built into the steep hill near power lines, under a 26-foot height limit. “This is a huge win-win for Albuquerque and a massive investment for the club to create a future for professional soccer and more,” said one proponent of the plan.
Commissioners heard public reaction for and against the plan, with some worried about cars, noise, and light pollution. “They seem to be minimizing the potential sound impact and that’s very concerning to us,” said one opponent of the plan.
In the end, the EPC approved the plan on an 8-1 vote. There’s now a 15-day clock where anyone can appeal Thursday’s decision—that would trigger another layer of review and a city council vote. City council is expected to review and possibly vote on the proposed lease agreement Monday.