Albuquerque’s 2005 bargain buy is paying off
By J.R. Oppenheim
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque’s indoor track facility provided a significant economic boom to the city during the slow winter months.
Based on information from the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau, seven indoor track and field meets held at the downtown convention center generated a total of $1.8 million in direct spending — new dollars brought into and circulated within the city.
The biggest, the NCAA indoor championships held March 14-15 brought in nearly $998,000 in direct spending. The NCAA event had athletes from 124 men’s and women’s teams across the country. The 16 individuals in each of the 15 events, along and 24 relay teams (four athletes on each squad), qualified for the meet.
This year marked the first time Albuquerque has hosted the event. The previous three NCAA indoor meets were held in College Station, Texas; Nampa, Idaho; and Fayatteville, Arkansas. Sites for the track championships go through a bidding process and can host once every four years, meaning Albuquerque cannot host the NCAAs again until 2019 at the earliest.
University of New Mexico head coach Joe Franklin and Senior Associate Athletic Director Kurt Esser called the national championship event a roaring success both from a competitive standpoint and an economic one.
“It was a great showcase for Albuquerque, UNM and New Mexico,” Franklin said. “People from across the world got to see it, and it’s all about name recognition for our university, state and city.”
Albuquerque’s track a “hidden gem”
The track helps fill a void at the Albuquerque Convention Center during a time of the year that doesn’t see as much convention traffic, said Dan Ballou, sports marketing director for the convention and visitors bureau.
The prime time for conventions typically runs from April to November, says Ballou. The indoor track season, both collegiate and professional, runs from mid-January to the end of March.
“It was a great showcase for Albuquerque, UNM and New Mexico”
– Joe Franklin, Lobo track coach
“Very few downtowns in the country, in the world, have a lot of travel on weekends because they’re designed more for the business traveler and convention goers,” Ballou said. “Those are more Monday through Friday-type things. Sporting events are more weekend business, so they fill a need.”
One more benefit, Ballou said, is events like the USA Track and Field Indoor Championships and the NCAAs generate exposure since news of the meets is broadcast online.
The city and the university have a good relationship when it comes to sharing the track, Esser said.
While the city owns the meets, UNM coaches and staff run its own regular-season meets. The school does not pay a fee to the city to use the facility at the downtown convention center and both sides work together to host as many meets as possible, Esser said.
This season alone the indoor track hosted seven meets, including six collegiate events:
• The Lobo Collegiate Invitational on Jan. 18,
• The Cherry & Silver Invitational on Jan. 24-25,
• The New Mexico Invitational on Feb. 1,
• The New Mexico Classic on Feb. 7-8,
• The Don Kirby Elite Invitational on Feb. 14-15,
• The USA Indoor Championships on Feb. 21-23, the final event of the Indoor Championship Series (a non-collegiate event),
• And the NCAA indoor championships on March 14-15.
“It is one of those hidden gems, in my opinion”– Kurt Esser, UNM senior associate athletic director
The Lobos hosted those first five events, meaning they did not have to travel for early-season competition. Franklin said there are not many facilities in this region; most indoor tracks are located in the Midwest and back east because of the heavy snow in the winter.
Staying at home provides a significant savings for UNM in terms of travel costs. Esser estimates the team would spend roughly $70,000 to $100,000 if it had to travel over those five weekends.
Other western and southwestern states that have indoor tracks include Washington, Idaho, Montana and Texas, Franklin said. The Lone Star State has two, one at Texas A&M and one in Houston.
“It is one of those hidden gems, in my opinion,” Esser said. “We don’t pay anything to the city for these meets and we work together as much as we can to host as many as we can.”
How Albuquerque benefits
The city spent $500,000 for the indoor track in 2005 through the use of general obligation bonds backed by taxpayers.
Brad Winter, an Albuquerque city councilor and himself a track and field athlete, helped in acquiring a new track. He said it would have cost the city roughly $1.2 million, but it got a good deal by purchasing a track built originally for the Staples Center in Los Angeles, but which had never been put to use.
“I’m very proud of it,” Winter said. “It’s also about the economic impact it’s had for Albuquerque. This year’s meet is a good example.”
Ballou called the $1.8 million in direct spending a conservative and realistic number.
Based on a formula approved by Destination Marketing Association International, Ballou said, the direct spending considers those new dollars brought in and exchanged within the local economy. He said those dollars are typically exchanged seven times before leaving the city.
“You buy your ticket. Part of that money goes to the person who sold you the ticket,” Ballou said. The person that sold you the ticket may be hungry when he leaves here and goes to Subway and gets a sandwich, which in turns pays that Subway worker, who then needs gas for his car. Or the Subway owner needs to buy a new oven. ‘I can’t get that oven here. I have to go to Phoenix and get it,’ so that dollar leaves.”
A recap of the 2014 NCAA meet
As indoor track meets go, Albuquerque’s NCAA featured world class action, and some Lobos finished among the top 10 in their respective events.
The University of Oregon swept both the team titles, the women winning their fifth in a row and the men their second.
The Ducks claimed the women’s title by edging runner-up Texas in the meet’s final race: the 4×400 meter relay. It gave the Oregon women a half-point advantage in the final team standings over Texas.
The Oregon men beat second-place Arkansas by a point margin of 62-54, benefitting from freshman Edward Cheserek’s sweep in the distance races. He won the 3,000 meters in and the 5,000 in 13:46.67.
UNM featured four athletes at the NCAA meet. Senior Luke Caldwell placed sixth in the 5,000, junior Adam Bitchell finished ninth in the same race, senior Kendall Spencer took eighth in the long jump, and freshman Elmar Engholm was eighth in the mile run.
J.R. Oppenheim is a student at the University of New Mexico majoring in journalism and history. He also works as the assistant sports editor and web editor for The Daily Lobo, UNM’s student-run newspaper. Follow him on Twitter @JROppenheim.