Story updated on May 15, 2018 to reflect a joint statement response from City Councilors Ken Sanchez & Diane Gibson.
Is Albuquerque City Council about to give too sweet of a deal to Topgolf in its promise to build a new facility in the Duke City?
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller’s Economic Development Department is raising the question following a council committee’s approval of a multi-million-dollar incentive package for the multi-billion-dollar corporation.
City Council’s Finance and Government Operations Committee approved more than $2.6 million of incentives for Topgolf at a Monday meeting.
The committee’s approval of the incentive package now sets the stage for the final vote in front of the entire Albuquerque City Council. If it passes, Topgolf stands to get $2.66 million in city “Local Economic Development Act,” or LEDA funds.
Mayor Tim Keller’s administration responded to committee approval of the incentive package Monday night, raising concerns over the current offer.
The city’s Economic Development Department is worried that the current Topgolf incentive ordinance has no teeth if Topgolf doesn’t follow through. The current deal doesn’t have any job requirements or penalties if Topgolf fails to meet up to its promises.
TopFolf says it will build a three-story building on the former site of the long-demolished “The Beach” waterpark at I-25 and Montaño Boulevard.
The company says it will hire as many as 350 people and create 300 construction jobs at the site.
However, those promises aren’t bound in the current ordinance. Typically, LEDA funds have “clawback” clauses to prevent companies from taking taxpayer handouts and leaving town without fulfilling its original stated obligations.
Director of Albuquerque’s Economic Development Department, Synthia Jaramillo says she’s concerned that councilors have changed the LEDA funding rules too drastically to try to lure Topgolf.
The Keller Administration also says it hasn’t had a say in the deal.
“We have not done this for other projects and why would we start now?” said Jaramillo. “It just doesn’t set a good precedent for the taxpayers, why would we do this for this one project when we have others that we have not done this for.”
KRQE News 13 spoke to Albuquerque City Councilor Ken Sanchez about the concerns Monday. Sanchez co-sponsored the bill drawing up the incentives for Topgolf.
Sanchez told KRQE News that the city’s been vetting Topgolf’s investment for a year. He says the company has a proven track record, which is why he’s okay with the lack of job requirements.
The Keller Administration says it will now do an economic analysis on the project before council takes a full vote on the incentive package at their next meeting on June 4, 2018.
In a statement released Tuesday, City Councilors Ken Sanchez and Diane Gibson responded to the Keller Administration’s concerns.
“The Topgolf project is one of the most exciting economic development projects to come to the City in many years. It will annually attract almost half a million people from a 75 to 150 mile radius, will create 350 jobs, and will generate millions of dollars of tax revenue for the citizens of Albuquerque. It will also redevelop a highly visible site that has been vacant for 14 years. The Council has done its due diligence on this project, and the best and most experienced legal minds in the City agree that the process the Council has followed complies with state statute and City ordinances. If there are concerns about risk to the City, those concerns can be addressed in the project agreement between Topgolf and the City. We believe that opposition to an overwhelmingly positive economic development project like this, principally for “process” reasons, is inappropriate and shortsighted.”
–Albuquerque City Councilors Ken Sanchez and Diane Gibson