SANTA FE (KRQE) — What started off as a big dream for big sports in New Mexico appears to have officially run out of time.
This year's tourism budget approved by the House includes no funding for the New Mexico Sports Authority after nearly nine years of existence.
The Sports Authority was created in 2004 by Gov. Bill Richardson. Its mission was to bring big sporting events, exhibition games, semipro teams or even a pro team to New Mexico.
Early on there were some successes. In 2005, the San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns played a preseason game at The Pit. The authority was key to creating the New Mexico Bowl a year later.
But as early as 2007, it was clear that the overall mission wasn't fulfilling its purpose to the extent hoped for.
"It turns out we didn't have the corporate dollars and the support necessary to bring pro sports teams and those types of events to New Mexico," said Secretary of Tourism Monique Jacobson.
The Sports Authority was brought into the Tourism Department, and the mission was expanded to include promoting sports tourism. Its budget allocations remained healthy with $555,000 set aside in 2009.
But then state finances got tight, and funding for the Sports Authority was slashed $355,000 in 2010 and again under Martinez to $105,000 in 2011.
Of that $105,000 each of the last two years, the vast majority went into pay and benefits for one employee.
This year there is no budget for the Sports Authority because it's being absorbed by a division of the Tourism Department.
Jacobson said tourism dollars will be spent on promoting state sporting activities like skiing and golf through marketing campaigns, and $30,000 will still be set aside to sponsor, support and attract smaller events.
Sports Authority supporters like Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas, D-Albuquerque, said they're disappointed to see the state agency totally disappear. Maestas hopes the Tourism Department will continue advocating sports tourism.
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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.