Balloon Fiesta Park is one of the city’s premier event venues and there are plans to make major additions there in the coming years.
What’s next for Balloon Fiesta Park? Under a new mayoral administration, the city has a few different short and long projects in mind.
“It’s a tremendous asset that I think we can improve,” said David Simon, director of Albuquerque’s Parks and Recreation Department.
The city is still working off an extensive master plan for the park that was last updated in 2012. Some of the potential big ideas in that master plan include a hotel or commercial-retail building on the park site, a multi-level parking structure or even a multi-purpose indoor sports center.
“We owe such gratitude to the people, our Albuquerque civic leaders who had a grand vision for Balloon Fiesta and Balloon Fiesta Park,” said Simon, speaking of the scope of the master plan.
While those ideas are all a possibility for the future of the park, the city says there are no current plans to push forward with some of the big projects.
“Sometimes the large (ideas) just take a little longer to do,” said Simon.
For now, Simon says the scope of work the city is focused on includes important utility projects and other “quality of life” type projects.
“Basic infrastructure at the park, improving the visitor experience, those are the highest priorities right now,” said Simon.
By Fiesta 2018, Simon says people will notice upgrades outside of the Sid Cutter Pilot’s Pavilion and near the center of “Vendor Row.”
Crews are building two new outdoor fire pits at Pilot’s Pavilion on the north and west side of the building. New shade structures will also go up soon along Vendor Row in a project with the Kiwanis Club.
“It’ll be a great new feature to the park for both shade and for the Fiesta goers who enjoy the beer garden aspect of Fiesta,” said Simon.
There are other bigger projects like an outdoor amphitheater that are part of a master plan. However, at this point, the city says it’s holding off on big brick and mortar projects.
“The smart way is to learn as you go, make smart decisions with the taxpayer dollars about what’s most important to invest in here at the park,” said Simon.
As for the amphitheater, Simon notes that the city already sets up a temporary stage for the “Freedom Fourth” 4th of July festival to show musical acts to crowds between 30,000 and 50,000 people.
“I think the concept of building the outdoor amphitheater may be something we want to just revisit,” said Simon. “We actually have one of the state’s best outdoor amphitheaters already on this 86-acres of grass.”
Some of the larger “next up” projects the city is considering investing in include upgrades to water lines, drainage, and electrical infrastructure.
“Making sure that the infrastructure of the park is solid so that we can support and sustain as many events and as many people as we can,” said Simon.
Other improvements that the city is considering for the near future include upgrades to make it easier for people to walk or drive into the park.
“Making it easier to move in and out of the park would be a huge improvement to the visitor experience,” said Simon.
The city is also eyeing upgrades to Vendor Row, to make the area more of a permanent “promenade,” rather than the current asphalt road.