Albuquerque’s big new soccer franchise, New Mexico United, kicks off its debut match Saturday at Isotopes Park, and it’s doing so with help from city government. 

The extra grass needed for the franchise’s first soccer game in the city-owned facility is being paid for by the City of Albuquerque. 

Isotopes Park, which opened in April 2003, is wholly owned by the City of Albuquerque but leased on a yearly basis to the Isotopes franchise. 

Leadership from New Mexico United say it was important to be able to play games in Isotopes Park because of its established setting. 

“This is a professional team that deserves a professional stadium, and a comfortable seat and a familiar place where you can get great concessions,” said Powers. 

While the soccer franchise is occupying Isotopes Park for 17 home games in 2019, officially, the United is not the primary tenant. The city’s lease with the Isotopes franchise covers the entire year for a cost of about $750,000. The Isotopes also have control over the facility in their own off-season. 

“The Isotopes have exclusive use of the facility and (can) sublease the facility to any other uses,” said Lawrence Rael, chief operating officer for the city of Albuquerque. 

That “sublease” is how New Mexico United is doing business at Isotopes Park. Representatives from the Isotopes and the United declined to released specific details of the sublease. 

“We pay a base rent and we have some other revenue share agreements, and then, of course, we have to manage all of that on our end, from the spectator concessions to what we sell in stadium,” said Amanda Powers, chief operating officer for the New Mexico United. 

Powers says the United franchise has made investments in the fiber optic connections at the park and ticketing infrastructure at the box office. However, the United won’t be dealing with the cost of the grass needed to fill in the gaps on the baseball diamond. 

The city has agreed to pay about $270,000 to cover installation and removal of the extra grass at Isotopes Park for the United’s 2019 season. 

“We reviewed our budgets, in terms of our capital program and said, ‘well, here’s a win-win for us,’” said Rael. 

The extra turf comes from a grass farm in Moriarty. The city says after each homestand of soccer matches, crews will remove and re-use the turf at parks, golf courses and school fields that the city is paid to maintain. 

“It’s a creative way in helping them be successful, at the same time, taking care of our own needs in various parks and even the golf courses,” said Rael. 

The savings are big for the start-up soccer franchise, which says it hopes to capitalize on the savings by becomes an established sports operation. 

“We’ve all got something to prove here,” said Powers. 

In all, the turf will be replaced nine times throughout the United’s 17 game season. The city says it expects to “break-even” with the turf replacement cost, as it normally pays to reseed grass in parks and other green spaces. 

Under the terms of the Isotopes lease with the city, the baseball franchise also shares a portion of its yearly revenues with the city, to include all the events held at the park.  

After the first one-million dollars earned, the Isotopes share revenue with the city on a 50-50 basis. In 2018, the city received a check for more than $1.5 million from the Isotopes franchise.