ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — Opening night was a sweet one for the more than 10,000 who showed up to Isotopes Park to take in the team's 10th home opener in Albuquerque with the home team racking up a 7-4 win over visiting Omaha.
But just 10 years ago it was a very different scene at this site.
The park, known then as the Albuquerque Sports Stadium, was vacant after the Albuquerque Dukes left town following the 2000 season. The more than 30-year-old facility was a ghost town.
In 2001, city leaders asked the public for help to get baseball back in the Duke City. That May, 56 percent of city voters approved borrowing $25 million, $10 million from general obligation bonds and $15 million through a 25-year state loan, to build Isotopes Park on the site of the old facility.
The Calgary Cannons came to town and started playing baseball in Albuquerque in 2003.
But although taxpayers did front the money for the park, ultimately team ownership is responsible for paying off 60 percent. Under its agreement with the city the Isotopes pay $1.1 million a year in rent and interest payments to Albuquerque.
On top of that, the city gets paid a 10 percent surcharge on tickets, food, drinks and merchandise, far more than the less than 2 percent it would typically get from gross receipts taxes. That money goes to paying for stadium maintenance and operations.
At Friday's home opener, the team cut the city its annual check from last year, a cool $1.6 million. That brings its total payment back to taxpayers to $17.4 million.
The team will continue paying off the stadium's loan until the lease runs out in 16 years.
"This is the perfect example of a public private partnership," Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry said. "It's a great investment for quality of life, great investment for our community, and it turns out it's a great fiscal investment as well."
Beyond the direct money back, the city is pleased with something else the team provides: jobs. The team says it hires more than 400 employees every year, with the vast majority part-time workers.
Fans have shown up, too. The Isotopes have consistently ranked near the top in minor league home attendance, with an average of around 580,000 fans coming to games.
Tourism officials told KRQE News 13 it believes the team also helps bring tourists to Albuquerque, but neither the team nor city could provide specific numbers as to how many out-of-towners take in Isotopes Park in a given season.
Copyright 2013 KRQE TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Did you like this article? Vote it up or down! And don't forget to add your comments below!
New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the U.S. Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of Imperial Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory.