The turf war is over.

An indoor artificial turf field, bought by the city of Albuquerque and installed in a Rio Rancho facility last year, has returned to Duke City. The field is now in storage at Expo New Mexico’s Tingley Coliseum.

“The field is home,” said Parks and Recreation director Dave Simon at a Friday news conference.

But although Simon said the field was “quietly” moved to Tingley Coliseum in July, the city has yet to be reimbursed $160,000 in state funds appropriated for the purchase.

Expo New Mexico doesn’t currently have an agreement with the Duke City Gladiators, whose home games take place at the Rio Rancho Events Center, to play on the new Albuquerque field. But the Gladiators’ name and football field markings, alongside city of Albuquerque logos, will remain on the field for the immediate future.

(Gary Herron/Observer)

The 2022 purchase of the field became the focus of a March report from the Albuquerque Office of the Inspector General, which said the purchase violated the state’s anti-donation clause. The report said the city gifted the field to the Gladiators indoor professional football franchise.

In April 2022, the city paid $236,622 to buy and install artificial turf in the Rio Rancho Events Center. The Duke City Gladiators used the field for home games.

But now, the turf has been uninstalled and returned to Albuquerque — a move that Simon said was always the plan. The turf will be stored at Tingley Coliseum until after the State Fair, when regular events at Expo New Mexico will resume. The $1,800 moving cost will be paid back to the city by the Gladiators.

The state declined to reimburse the city for funds, earmarked for turf playing fields at Albuquerque parks and rec facilities, months after the purchase. Simon said the city plans to resubmit for reimbursement now that the field is in Albuquerque. The city has until 2025 to be paid back.

The Rio Rancho location, Simon said, was a pandemic-era agreement between the city and the events center. At the time, Tingley Coliseum was closed to several events due to COVID-19 restrictions, which prompted the Gladiators to relocate from the facility to Rio Rancho.

Simon said there was no specific end date to the agreement between the city and the Rio Rancho Events Center.

“We weren’t sure when the COVID global pandemic was going to end,” Simon said. “But the ending point for functional purposes was the conclusion of the indoor football season.”

The Duke City Gladiators finished their Indoor Football League season on July 16 with a 5-10 record.

Simon maintains that the OIG report was “misinformed.” Simon said contrary to the OIG report — which alleged that the Gladiators reaped all the benefit of the purchase and the city received none — that the city received several perks. Simon noted that the city gained visibility and was able to use the field for events. The field was also stored and maintained for free.

The city is now in a five-year agreement with Expo New Mexico, which ensures that the city will have free access to the field at least five times a year. According to a city news release, the events center has expressed an interest in using the field to youth and adults groups. There is an option to renew the contract for another five years.