NAIOP attendees head to the Sky Room at Camps Park, where Rio Rancho Mayor Gregg Hull and City Manager Matt Geisel talked about the park, City Hall, and the campuses nearby of UNM Health Sciences and CNM, as well as the extensive use of Campus Park. (Gary Herron/Observer)


Monthly NAIOP attendees are used to sitting down at the meetings, which lately have been at Premiere Cinemas.

Those who went to the July 14 meeting were also sitting down – most of the way, at least – but this time in an air-conditioned luxury bus, which the 55 or so folks boarded in the Premiere Cinemas parking lot.

They were treated to a ride north on Unser Boulevard, around City Center, and then south on Broadmoor Boulevard, taking in and hearing about City of Vision current and future assets – namely buildings and neighborhoods being erected.

Rio Rancho will always have people wondering why City Center, situated on a 160-acre parcel acquired early in the 21st century after a trade with the New Mexico State Land Office, was built “in the middle of nowhere.”

Rio Rancho Mayor Gregg Hull, while outlining the nearby projects and what’s to come, reiterated the crash of 2008 that derailed a lot of plans for investment and building.

Given that downturn in the nation’s economy, consider this: Since 2006, the city’s investment in the City Center area includes more than $350 million in infrastructure and facility investments, thousands of jobs and it attracts several hundred thousand visitors and students annually.

Here’s what the tour participants saw and heard about on the nearly 90-minute tour:

Campus Park: Phase 1 of the $3.3 million, 6-acre site opened in 2021. Hull termed it “a game-changer … it’s a phenomenal facility, truly a community space,” and it gives the city “a cultural identity that’s been missing from Rio Rancho.”

Rio Rancho Events Center: Formerly called Santa Ana Star Center, the $47 million facility opened in 2006, hosting everything from hockey to high school state tournaments, concerts, wrestling and boxing matches, and even a president in 2019.

Rio Rancho City Hall: Built at a cost of more than $16 million and opened in summer 2007.

Hewlett-Packard: A $63 million facility that opened in 2009.

UNM Health Sciences Rio Rancho Campus, previously UNM West: Built after the city’s residents in 2008 approved a quarter of 1 percent gross receipts tax boost to be used for higher education facilities.

The project cost was about $13 million, with the first building opening to students in 2010.

Central New Mexico Community College (CNM): Situated on a 40-acre site north of the UNM campus, its lone 62,000-square-foot building opened in 2010 and cost more than $20 million.

UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center: A $143 million teaching hospital opened in 2012 and was funded in part by a voter-approved property tax.

UNM Center for Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation: About $20 million of Rio Rancho higher education gross receipts tax funded the construction, with the center formally opening last December. It’s a two-story, 50,000-square-foot facility for clinical, research and teaching that will allow UNM to add orthopaedic surgeons, medical residents and other learners in various areas. It will also provide an innovative location for patient care, academic training and research.

Broadmoor Senior Center: Phase 1 of the $3.4 million facility, the second senior center in the city, opened in 2021.

“Rio Rancho has been on the move,” Hull said, and, “We have a lot of plans on the horizon.”

How do we get there?

Without access, how would people get there?

Hull also spoke about two key roads, Paseo del Volcan – at least, the 3.9-mile stretch between Iris Road and Unser Boulevard that cost $5 million – and the Broadmoor extension, which runs between Northern Boulevard to the Broadmoor Senior Center, a $3.2 million project that opened in 2016.

Another road in the area, College Boulevard, will be extended from near City Hall to the Broadmoor Senior Center, enhancing connectivity in the area.

After briefing the attendees on future phases in the area, while the bus went south on Broadmoor, Mike Skolnick of Excalibur Realty detailed housing developments along the road between Paseo del Volcan and Northern, including Broadmoor Heights, Zuma Ranch, Hidden Valley, High Range, Terra del Norte, Stonegate and Milagro Mesa – “about 3,000 new homes” either built or soon under construction.

Fred Shepherd Sandoval Economic Alliance president and CEO, added concluding remarks about the drive to create more jobs in the area, “so people can live and work here … (so) employers have all the workforce here.”
Shepherd saw at least half of the bus riders raise their hands when he asked how many lived in Albuquerque, and many of them work in Rio Rancho.

Hull earlier said he was a proponent of Rio Rancho being a place with a “live, work, play” environment.

Maybe it took a small step, at least, in that direction Thursday.

Téa Salazar, of Real Estate Advisors, said she learned a lot.

“I’m from Albuquerque. I have been to City Center for various sporting events, mostly high school, but I had not seen the improvements of the amphitheater outside – that was really gorgeous,” she said. “It’s exciting.”

As for paying off in her line of work, she said, “I think it’s good to see all the things developed out here and see that there’s a wealth of opportunities for companies and businesses to thrive in Rio Rancho, and this was a perfect opportunity to display that, and show that.”

Courtney Tinnin of King Capital Commercial Real Estate agreed.

“It was cool, just to see,” she said. “I used to play at the Santa Ana Star Center, basketball in 2008 for St. Pius, but there was nothing out there.

“It was cool to go back out there and see the development that’s out there and I can just envision the future and the development that’s gonna come with that,” Tinnin said, adding it might help her in her job. “Getting clients out there – it gave me a better perspective of their vision for that City Center.”

Tinnin admitted she’d only been to the City Center area once since she played in a postseason game for the Sartans, and Thursday’s junket was her first tour of the area.