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Sports town Burque, Part IV

January 14, 2008

Enough arena talk, ok? Let’s talk stadiums.

Isotopes Park is a super facility. I think the only complaint one could argue is its location. It’d be nice to see the stadium closer to restaurants, bars, and shopping, but there isn’t a whole lot anyone can do about that now.

On location. There is one spot in this town head and shoulders above all other potential stadium locations. Winrock Mall. I don’t really need to see a third shopping center in Uptown. Spruce up Coronado and fertilize ABQ Uptown; we’ll be fine. Build me a nice stadium in Uptown and, oh baby, talk about an cash boom!

Look, for years the city has begged for a stadium or arena Downtown. They say a Downtown venue will bring retail and residential back to the city center. And you know, they’re probably right, but that doesn’t mean Downtown is the be all end all of potential sporting sites. Let’s look at Uptown for a second. It’s already Burque’s retail center, and with ABQ Uptown rolling we’re starting to see some residential infill. Hotels, restaurants, a bar (hmm… we need to work on that figure)… we have the ground work laid for a really exciting urban district. Throw some entertainment in the area… property will sky rocket.

Winrock is adjacent to a freeway and near one of the city’s major mass transit centers — an ideal setup with regard to the traffic issues sporting venues create. Speaking of which, when the city finally expands its transit services beyond bus, you can guarantee we’ll have multiple lines converging in Uptown. No need to build a special line and station!

Ah, this jigsaw fits together after all!

Let’s talk the dollars this thing would bring. Right now, Uptown retailers make the black during the holidays and the State Fair. During those periods people come from all over the state to hit up the best shopping in a 300 mile radius. What happens if you throw in some game days! People would make a weekend out of coming into Albuquerque to catch a game. They can spend the night at one of the many hotels, dine at a descent restaurant, and buy a MacBook at ABQ Uptown. Oh, I like the dollars I see coming into our town.

So why a stadium instead of an arena? While Uptown is setup for an urban neighborhood, it surrounded on all sides by suburbia. You don’t want a giant, ominous fortress in your backyard. You want a warm and inviting park! Arenas, no matter how hard you dress them up, are cold buildings. They’re gentrified warehouses (or, ahem, convention centers). Stadiums at least feel public. Something about a large grass field, blue sky overhead, and the community coming together behind one banner gives stadiums a ‘park-y’ feel. Look, you’re pushing the outdoor shopping experience and trying to encourage walkability in the area… you need an open air facility.

Now, I have one caveat with the Uptown stadium. It can’t be a football stadium. Football stadiums are monstrous, generally ugly, and are in use (professionally) for eight weekends a year. The best football stadiums recently constructed are domes and we’re not building a dome in Uptown. That just isn’t happening. (Hear that? That’s Bill Richardson’s heart getting crushed for the second time in a month. Sorry, Prez Guv.)

We have two stadium options: baseball or soccer. New era baseball stadium are beautiful structures. Architecturally, new stadiums are hitting a nice stride mixing classic ballpark and modern luxury. (See Isotopes Park, for example.) Tickets to baseball games are way more affordable than tickets to football games. Baseball parks are half the size of football stadiums and also see use for at least half the year. Soccer stadiums are the right size, too. Like baseball stadiums, soccer stadiums are pretty sexy structures. In order to attract fans to this relatively new professional sport (in EE. UU., anyway), these stadiums need sexing up. And that’s the potential problem with soccer. How well would it draw? There is a pretty strong soccer community in Albuquerque and Las Cruces, but would it attract fans outside these sleeper communities? If we get in on the action now we could become one of those ‘classic’ franchises in MLS, but that doesn’t really take an edge off the odds of success. The safe bet is on baseball.

There it is. Big time sports and Albuquerque doesn’t have to be a dream. I’ve said my piece. I’d love to hear yours.

Postscript: Let’s go Chargers!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. John permalink
    January 15, 2008 7:53 am

    Since I’ve commented on every other post here’s a radical idea:
    Move the Lobo Football program to Uptown. Run the homecoming parade down Lomas from University to Louisiana. Try to field an MLS or semi-pro football team (or both) to fill in the off days. The only sport you couldn’t really share with is baseball (it’s always a disaster). Then, when Abq matures and can handle an NFL team, you’ve got the infrastructure built.

    I will agree that football stadiums are ugly, but they don’t have to be. Get one of our local all-star architects to design something that won’t look like the yard of a penitentiary.

  2. Mario permalink
    January 15, 2008 5:36 pm

    Great posts and great ideas. I beg to differ on a few of them but overall I agree. Like John said, we have some incredible architects right here in our backyard, I say let Mr. Predock design as he did a wonderful job with San Diego’s baseball park.

  3. El Orange permalink
    January 16, 2008 8:29 pm

    @John. Baseball/football shared stadiums are a disaster. I think we’ll escape that folly. Moving University Stadium is an interesting idea, but I don’t see it happening. Although, the land Winrock sits on was University property pre-shopping center. I’d love to see a MLS team, but the league is expanding slowly (rightfully so) and uber cautious when picking expansion towns. A Mr. Moneybags to back the thing would go a long way!

    @Mario. Petco Park is a gorgeous stadium. A bit breezy at times, but still a great venue. Totally nails the Downtown San Diego and Gaslamp revival. Condo prices in SD have dropped too, so if you have a spare dime grab one of new flats looking into the park. Amazing. If you can’t afford a condo, I recommend watching a game from the rooftop bar at the (relatively) new Gaslamp District Marriott. Great view of the game and a world class bar?! Sign me up.

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