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Sports town Burque, Part II

January 8, 2008

What can Albuquerque do to support professional sports? Simple. Facilities.

The Isotopes are an amazing success. So much so, I think Albuquerque should top MLB’s list of potential expansion cities. C’mon, the Topes pull better than their major league club! A lot of the Topes’ success is due to baseball’s long history in this town, but really, what town doesn’t have a baseball tradition? The Dukes always did well in the warm body count, but ultimately left town because the Albuquerque Sports Stadium was a complete dump. Knock the thing down and build a first rate facility… BAM. A franchise from Calgary moves in and we get record breaking attendance figures. Go figure.

What’s that? We have a new facility? The Rio Rancho Santa Ana Star Center?! Pssh. Give me a break. Have you ever been to the Star Center? Exactly. The thing is on the absolute edge of the metro area… and it houses the equivalent of a Double-A hockey club! In twenty years when Downtown Rio Rancho rises from the desert sands, then a minor league team might pull well out there, but until that day arrives playing in Rio Rancho will be a death nail on any professional franchise. Sorry Scorps. I’m not trying to bring you down… it isn’t like you had much of a choice. Tingley is a dump not worthy a Double-A hockey club — we’re in agreement.

Tingley. Where to begin. Stop pouring money into the damn thing. It was never intended to house a modern professional franchise. We all know it is a barn. A freakin’ barn! Playing basketball in a barn is OK if you’re a high school team from Des Moines, New Mexico circa 1946. A professional basketball team deserves a professional venue. Not the over sized barn at the State Fair Grounds.

How about the new Downtown arena? Yeah, how about it. What a farce! What a fleecing of Albuquerque tax payers! Every city official with their name tied to the current proposal should be fired. Tarred and feathered it were still possible! Page 2 of C. H. Johnson’s Market Analysis report (PDF):

The arena would likely host minor league hockey and will target an af2 (arena football) franchise, and accommodate other events such as concerts, family shows, and other community-oriented events.

Stop it. Just stop it. Are you kidding me? An af2 team?! A minor league hockey team, too?! Oh, stop it. Just stop it.

The Barrett Sports Group’s review of the market analysis report, page 10 (PDF):

Comparable Arenas

Reviewed Operating and Financial Characteristics of the Following 15 Arenas:

+ Sovereign Bank Arena –Trenton, New Jersey (1)
+ Budweiser Events Center –Loveland, Colorado (1)
+ Dodge Arena –Hidalgo, Texas (1)
+ John Labatt Centre –Ontario, Canada (1)
+ Everett Events Center –Everett, Washington
+ Wachovia Arena –Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania
+ Spokane Arena –Spokane, Washington (1)
+ Sovereign Center –Reading, Pennsylvania
+ Verizon Wireless Arena –Manchester, New Hampshire
+ Laredo Entertainment Center –Laredo, Texas
+ The Mark of the Quad Cities –Moline, Illinois (1)
+ Van Andel Arena –Grand Rapids, Michigan
+ Pepsi Arena –Albany, New York
+ Ford Center –Oklahoma City
+ Alltel Arena –Little Rock, Arkansas

(1) –Arenas referenced in C.H. Johnson Consulting, Inc. report.

Ladero, Albany, and Spokane? What? Excuse me, I need a drink.

Back to the Market Analysis, pages 7-8:

The Albuquerque market continues to grow as a destination. It has continued to support existing and new destination venues, such as Isotopes Park, the Journal Pavilion, and downtown movie theaters. Its corporate, military and high-tech government presence is solid and growing. The market has a very low ratio of professional sports facility seats on a per-capita basis, meaning it should be able to demographically support the proposed arena with little stress on market entertainment spending capacity. The market strongly supports its existing professional and college sports teams. The market has also shown it is willing to purchase premium seating in minor league venues, as there is a waiting list of 40 for suites at Isotopes Park.

Did anyone read this thing? I can copy and paste for ages here, just go read it. There is a waiting list for suites at Isotopes Park! MLB, are you listening? There aren’t many ‘minor league’ markets that can boast something so substantial. Baseball makes more money on ticket sales than any other sport/theater/amusement park venture in the world. (Huge venues with long seasons equals lots of tickets sold. There is a reason MLB bought out If we have 40 groups lined up for suites at a minor park, does it sound like we could maybe support a franchises outside a Double-A hockey team and Junior Varsity arena football team?

I have to stop here. Is the writing not on the wall? Maybe it is in Mandarin — I don’t know — but the last thing we need is an arena to support micro-minor league franchises. I’ll continue this series of posts tomorrow with more thoughts on the Downtown arena and Albuquerque’s potential for big league professional sports. Good grief.

UPDATE: I said I’d write the next post today (1/9), right? Ok, well, I’m half way through it, but the more I write the more I want to continue the bender yesterday’s post (above) induced. Choices… and bender it is. See you tomorrow.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 8, 2008 9:00 pm

    Thanks very much for the information, especially that market analysis. I also like your honesty about the current venues, such as “the barn”, and the ludicrous downtown arena boondoggle.

    As a hardcore baseball fan myself, I have to say I don’t think Isotope success has that much to do with baseball. You kind of hint at the same point, but I don’t really see ABQ as a “baseball” town, and feel the Isotopes is more about the Park, the food court and the fact it’s the only “suite” game in town.

    In order to pull a major league team, the numbers and dimension of support would have to be much, much higher (and no, comparing figures with the Marlins is not what I’m talking about). MLB and others, especially those outside of the area, look at Phoenix’s 2.3 million attendance and overall revenue package as something of a failure. And that’s a “winning” franchise.

    Until ABQ’s population really starts to explode it’s hard to see a team drawing 2.3 million here, or even close. And that’s if the new residents bring with them a stronger “baseball town” sense than we currently have, imho.

  2. John permalink
    January 9, 2008 9:09 am

    I see the downtown arena, as it is now, being more for concerts, one-offs like rodeos, and the like. You can’t woo a major league team without a bigger population (Green Bay would never get the Packers in the current climate). So the arena draws the people, the people draw the team…I’m going to stop before I start quoting Scarface.

  3. El Orange permalink
    January 14, 2008 4:43 pm

    Population is a key, if not — the — key in sizing up franchise ready cities. There are plenty of successful and disappointing franchises in all sized markets. From my perspective, comparing Phoenix and Albuquerque sports is a little like comparing apples and oranges. Phoenix is one of the ten biggest metro areas in the country; Albuquerque is one of the forty biggest. There is no doubt Phoenix can support a team in each of the four big leagues and then some. We, obviously, can’t. That isn’t to say we couldn’t support one, though. We’re not as tiny as we think we are. There are plenty of towns our size with one or more big time franchises. Our problem is a money one. We don’t have the employers other cities have. You can have the population of Mumbai, but if the people don’t have the money then they can’t support the team (financially). (Eh, I’m sure there is enough money in Mumbai to support a team. Hyperbole is dangerous tool!) I hope you guys had a chance to read my third post. Thanks for the comments.

  4. February 3, 2011 10:38 am

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