Transforming Isotopes Park into NM United soccer field

Albuquerque News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Workers at Isotopes Park say it’s tough hosting a baseball team and New Mexico United. From groundskeepers laying down new sod and digging holes for goalposts to stadium staff putting in the extra hours to cover more games, workers at the venue often only have two days to get the field transitioned for games. Isotopes officials say it might be that way for a while.

“From baseball to soccer is a two-day process,” said Clint Belau, head groundskeeper for Isotopes Park. “We have to take all the sod out, put all the dirt back in around those edges, rebuild our pitcher’s mound.”

It’s hard work that comes with playing home to two different sports in the same season. Officials at Isotopes Park say it’s been tough.

“Isotopes Park is a baseball stadium and it was built for baseball, it’s been operated for baseball, so having soccer come in has been a huge undertaking for our staff,” said John Traub, general manager of the Albuquerque Isotopes. “And we have the most professional staff in the business.”

The Isotopes play 70 games at home and New Mexico United play 17. On top of keeping the field looking pristine, the transition period is also about keeping the field level and players safe. It doesn’t come cheap to the city, who foots the bill.

“Things like time off that they would normally have in the baseball season or time to do regular things like maintenance on the baseball field, those schedules are now impacted,” said Traub. “It’s a major undertaking but we’re glad it’s been successful for the soccer team. If Clint was not involved in this thing, I’m not so sure that we would be doing it and I’m not so sure, it definitely would not be going as smoothly as it has.”

With a successful first season underway in the Duke City, will New Mexico United get a field of their own?

“We will still be at Isotopes next year, but we are definitely looking for a future option for a stadium,” said Elizabeth Davis, NM United’s marketing and communications director. “It’s within our scope, it’s within our plans, we’re looking into it now and we definitely hope to have it in the next five years.”

The Isotopes say the deal with New Mexico United is year-to-year. While it would be helpful to have a stadium ready for the soccer team to move into, the ‘Topes say it will be a while before that happens.

“It’s a one year deal with options. They certainly would like to have their own facility,” said Traub. “From a scheduling standpoint, that would be helpful.”

While it looks like those tricky transitions will go on for at least one more year, the Isotopes are looking on the bright side. They also hope people will come out for the next round of home games with a little more appreciation for the work that goes into the transformation.

“When sports are going well in a community, I think it’s good for everybody. It just takes a little more coordination,” said Traub. “When people come out next Thursday, and I encourage them to do so, look at the field and really appreciate the work and the effort that goes into it because you’d have no clue that a soccer game was played here.”

We asked the Isotopes how much NM United pays in rent to play there. They were unable to disclose the amount. Meanwhile, a location for a future New Mexico United stadium is in the works, but Isotopes Park will still be their home for at least the next year.

The Albuquerque Isotopes host the Las Vegas Aviators this weekend, starting on the Fourth of July. Their next field change will be later this month when New Mexico United hosts El Paso Locomotive.

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