$50 million stadium bond added to November ballot; Wehan returns

The past twenty-four hours have been full of important news for New Mexico United. First, the Albuquerque City Council voted to put the stadium bond on the November bond elections. Then on Tuesday morning, the club announced the return of fan-favorite Chris Wehan. Both of those announcements have a significant impact on the future of the club, but for very different reasons.

On Monday night, the Albuquerque City Council listened to public comments on the proposed stadium bond and had a lengthy Q&A session to try and get some answers for some of their concerns. Full disclosure, I wasn’t able to attend the entire meeting and haven’t watched the full video on YouTube yet. When I was able to tune in, the public comments were still ongoing and except for one comment from the president of the Barelas Neighborhood Association, the comments were all positive about the proposed bond. Among those that I had the chance to see speak were Sombrero Man and Club President and Owner Peter Trevisani. 

Many of the community members who spoke during the meeting talked about the sense of community that the club has already brought. They mentioned how those people they had met through United are not just friends, but family. I can relate to those comments. Because of New Mexico United, I have met some incredible people and have been allowed to be involved with the club on a closer level than I could have ever expected. 

After growing up in the Atlanta area, I’ve seen stadiums go up. Stadiums for teams and ownership groups with significantly deeper pockets than our ownership group here. Those ownership groups have shown far less concern for the community and the area around the stadiums they wanted than what Trevisani, United, and the Somos Unidos Foundation have shown in three short years. 

During the Q&A portion of the bond discussion, Councilor Trudy Jones brought up some questions multiple times. She wanted details on the total cost of the stadium, how the lease agreement would read, the location of the stadium, and other details. Multiple times these questions were answered by the city COO Lawrence Rael. In his responses, Rael stated that before the bond is approved that those discussions were premature. 

He’s not wrong. 

If you came to me and said, “I want to build a structure in the city and I would like some funding for it”, it wouldn’t make sense to have all those details ready to go before the funding was secured. Especially details like the terms of the lease agreement and what United would be responsible for in terms of repayments. If the bond isn’t approved, then it’s a moot point. In a scenario like this where there is a lot left to figure out, it is important that funding be secured before any final decisions are made. 

It’s worth pointing out that comparisons were made to the Isotopes Park bond and how that lease agreement was structured. Isotopes Park is owned by the city and the club makes payments to the city as a tenant. The city also received a portion of all revenue generated by sales inside the stadium; merchandise, food, beverage, suites, etc. With all of those funds combined, it was estimated that the city makes over $1 million per year from the Isotopes alone. Rael did state that this framework could also be used for a new stadium if approved and that all details of the lease would be brought before the city council to vote on. 

Before this proposed bond, the state legislature had already earmarked around $7 million for the city to use for land acquisition. 

Rael would also go on to say that he believed that the $50 million would build a ‘barebones’, functional stadium. Additional features such as a scoreboard or an awning could be paid for by revenue generated by United. It was also stated that any additional costs above the value of the bond could come from the club or the New Mexico State Legislature. The cost of the bond is nothing above and beyond what the state is already used to raising funds for through the gross receipts tax. It is worth noting that a portion of the gross receipts tax is already used for public works, which would include a project such as a stadium. 

In the end, the vote went in favor of the bond by a tally of 7-2. Councilors Jones and Brook Bassan voted against the bond. In addition, a resolution was put forth by Councilors Klarissa Pena, Lan Sena, and Cynthia Borrego to extend the site selection to include options west of the Rio Grande. That resolution was voted down by a tally of 3-6.

We here at Somos Mas wholly support the stadium bond. Jacob and Earl do live outside the city and won’t get the chance to vote, but I will. There are any number of reasons to vote in favor of this bond in November and if you are against it we would love to hear your opinion on why. We’ve talked extensively on the podcast about the stadium and why we support it, please be sure to go check that out. 

Beez is back!

Tuesday morning the club had even more exciting news to share with the community. After teasing a new player signing on Monday, at 11 a.m. the club broke the news that they had acquired Chris Wehan from Orange County SC, for a transfer fee that was believed to be a record for an intra-league transfer.

Wehan, a native of Orange County, of course, played for United during the 2019 and 2020 seasons before signing with OCSC before the 2021 season. He appeared in 15 matches for OCSC before the deal was signed. During his time with his hometown club, he had four goals and three assists. In addition to the transfer news, it was also announced that United had signed Beez to a contract extension through the 2023 season. 

During his time with United, Wehan became the club’s second-highest scorer of all time and leads the club in assists. 

The return of Wehan helps to bolster the club’s attack which has faltered at times this season. A dangerous player, Wehan has the ability to be a playmaker through the middle of the pitch and should be able to generate more chances for Devon Sandoval and Amando Moreno. In a statement from the club later in the day, they revealed that Wehan will be available for selection for the match against Oakland Roots on Wednesday night.