It’s general vs. general in the debate over whether the city of Albuquerque violated state statute by buying a $236,622 artificial turf field and installing it in Rio Rancho.
In a March 2023 report, the Albuquerque Office of the Inspector General wrote that the city’s purchase a year earlier of the field used by the privately owned Duke City Gladiators indoor professional football team at the Rio Rancho Events Center constituted a violation of the state’s anti-donation clause.
But a legal opinion from the state Office of the Attorney General disagrees, according to a letter released Friday.
The field, which is printed with the Duke City Gladiators logo, was used by the team in Rio Rancho after state pandemic restrictions prevented the Gladiators from playing at Tingley Coliseum in Albuquerque.
The office issued the letter in response to a request from City Councilor Louie Sanchez, who asked the AG to investigate the use of taxpayer money to buy the turf.
Solicitor General Aletheia Allen wrote in the letter that the city retains ownership and control of the field — “which suggests that the field itself is not a gift or donation to DCG or the RREC” — and that the city received benefits including space at the event center for youth sports. The city hosted more than a dozen youth events on the Gladiators field.
“Albuquerque is a sports town, and the City will keep making investments that create affordable opportunities for families,” city Parks and Recreation director Dave Simon told the Journal via email.
However, Allen’s letter said the state was right in denying reimbursement for the field, as the original placement of the field — outside of city limits — didn’t meet the terms set out for the funding.
State lawmakers appropriated $160,000 for turf fields at Albuquerque parks, but when the city sought those funds to pay for the field, the request was denied. In August, the field was returned to Albuquerque and will remain in storage at Tingley Coliseum until after the State Fair.
Simon said the plan was always to bring the field back to Duke City and called the OIG’s report “uninformed.”
At an August news conference, Simon said the city is planning to refile for reimbursement now that the field is back in Albuquerque, but as of Friday had not done so.