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Posted April 10, 2012

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April 2012: Stadium is a reason for all to cheer

Read the Superintendent’s column that ran in Albuquerque Journal today, April 10

We’re celebrating a momentous occasion, one that doesn’t happen very often at Albuquerque Public Schools. In fact, none of my predecessors in the last 45 years got to make an announcement like this.

Students are getting a new sports complex that includes a new football stadium. Yes, work has begun on the APS Community Stadium, just to the northwest of the Interstate 40 exit at 98th NW.

By the fall of 2013, APS high school football teams will be competing on a top-notch artificial field, surrounded by fans who perhaps didn’t have to travel as far as they once did to see them. A natural grass soccer field and track next to the stadium will be ready to go the following spring.

The APS Community Stadium solves a number of problems.

First of all, scheduling 13 high schools—with three teams each—into two stadiums is nothing short of a logistical nightmare. It’s getting done, and will be for one more season, but it’s inconvenient for families and hard on the facilities at Milne and Wilson. We’ve caught up on building adequate schools; now we’re easing the scheduling burden for athletics.

The stadium is centrally located for our five West Side high schools. Those families will have to spend less time on the road, crossing town in frustrating traffic. Plus, from four other schools near I-40 east of the river, it’s a straight shot down the expressway.

The local economy benefits as well. A couple of years ago, APS held the majority of commercial construction permits issued in Albuquerque. The industry is still pretty slow these days, and a project like this puts hundreds of people to work. Like the earlier school projects, building a stadium is possible because of incredible community support. You approved capital improvements packages that have sustained families in countless ways.

Then there’s the age factor. Like I said, a stadium is not something we get to build every day, or even every decade. Milne was built in 1939 as a Works Progress Administration project. The district built Wilson in 1967 during the Johnson administration—that’s eight presidents and $3 per gallon ago. The district doubled its number of high schools in that same span.

Albuquerque has grown enough to warrant a new stadium. What’s more, the students deserve it.

So many times, I’ve talked about the value of extracurricular activities as the reward for students, the enticement that keeps them coming back to school. Of course, we put academics first, but that doesn’t mean we should neglect outside interests entirely. Athletes, musicians and cheerleaders all work hard, and the new stadium offers a terrific venue for them to showcase their talents.

And, this is just the beginning. Softball fields and tennis courts round out the athletic complex. But let’s not forget the additional schools. Down the road (well, across the street), new schools will be built on the district’s other parcel of land there to help relieve existing schools that are already bursting at the seams. They’ll have to wait until the next election for approval of funding, but those concerns will be addressed.

As an additional benefit, APS Community Stadium gives us another partnership with the city of Albuquerque. Again, thanks to voters, bonds were approved for the purchase of land just west of the stadium property. The city has plans to, one day, build soccer fields that will complement the APS complex, creating even more opportunities for family activities.

I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to the first game at the new stadium. It will be a monument to what a community can do when it sees a need, and so many will benefit from it. Efforts like that make the hot dogs and popcorn taste that much better.

Thank you, voters, for your support, and I look forward to seeing you at the first game.

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