New Mexico United scores Balloon Fiesta Park lease agreement at City Council

Nov. 20—They pass. They shoot. They score.

New Mexico United will soon be heading to a pitch all their own, after the Albuquerque City Council voted 7-2 late Monday to allow the team to lease land at Balloon Fiesta Park to build a privately financed stadium.

Councilors Brook Bassan and Renée Grout voted against the proposal.

The team was facing down the clock as a 2026 mandate from the United Soccer League, requiring a minimum 6,000 seat stadium for each team in the league, quickly approached. Ron Patel, chief business officer at New Mexico United, said the team plans to build an 8,000- to 10,000-seat stadium.

The stadium will be located in a seven-acre parking lot east of the launch field that, according to city officials, is generally avoided by balloonists, although Rainbow Ryders founder and president Scott Appelman told the Journal it is possible to land in the area, depending on the weather.

The project passed a major benchmark last week after the Environmental Planning Commission voted 8-1 to recommend approving the project, bringing the team to the six-yard box.

"Scoring a pro soccer stadium in Albuquerque is a big win for families," Mayor Tim Keller said in a statement. "We listened to voters, worked together, and now the ultimate goal is one step closer to being realized."

The team is required to put at least $30 million into designing and building the stadium. Currently, New Mexico United subleases Isotopes Park, which is owned by the city. The privately owned soccer team will pay the city $35,000 the first year, with a 2% rent increase each year, plus a 10% cut of all parking revenue. The lease lasts for 30 years with the option to renew.

Recently retired Chief Administrative Officer Lawrence Rael estimated if parking cost $20 — the current cost for a space at Balloon Fiesta — with approximately 3,000 cars parking on game day, the city could net $102,000 throughout the season.

In return, the city will invest in certain infrastructure improvements, including upgrades to Vendor Row using state and federal funds.

Although some neighbors to the park came out to support the stadium, others said they were concerned about light and noise pollution from the construction and building and were frustrated with a lack of communication about the proposed project.

Patel said the team intends to continue to meet with neighborhood associations throughout the design and construction phases.

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta leases the city-owned land from the Tuesday after Labor Day to the end of October. New Mexico United has agreed to not host games during the 10-day Balloon Fiesta.

"We are excited that the Council has approved a lease that allows New Mexico United to move forward with the construction of a privately funded stadium that will be for all New Mexicans," United owner and President Peter Trevisani said in a statement. "We still have a lot of work to do, and are honored to represent our incredible state. Somos Unidos."

The team was founded in 2018. Since its first game, 930,000 people have attended a New Mexico United match.