Where does the New Mexico State Fairgrounds go from here?

With the horse racing and casino company relocating to Moriarity, the State and Expo NM has requested that we respond with ideas for how to fill the new hole in Expo NM's budget (~$2M). As a local I felt obligated to respond.

I proposed that a portion of the land be utilized as urban farm for the purpose of education, food security, and a place for the local community to gather. It's the perfect location for a demonstrative organic program to have a statewide reach. I also combined a Central Market concept that was originated by the City's own John O'Connell. This would certainly be a complimentary to an urban farm and the State Fair.

A Central Market could be compared to the Boston or Seattle Fish Market. It's a distribution center for wholesale and retail for New Mexican produce and food products. It's also much more. It would be a year-round destination that would help keep our food dollars here in New Mexico. It would drive more local agriculture so that less of our food is imported. Only a share of a multi-billion dollar market is produced here.

If you see that big empty hole in the middle of this image, you might be able to conceptualize how a farm might fit. So where would everyone park during the fair? The City might consider a transportation depot to promote alternative modes of transportation and a parking structure that can utilize a smaller footprint on the property and provide better disability access for large events such as the State Fair.

Many people might ask where the water will come from because acequias are out of the question. A drip irrigation system could be utilized for nearly the same amount of water that is currently sprayed on the racing surface between races. Please review my full response to the RFI.

Oh, and if Expo NM needs an immediate way to fill the gap they should consider charging for parking or a slight increase on ticket cost. With 700,000 visitors to the State Fair, it wouldn't take long to fill that void if they were in a pinch.

Views: 89

Comment by mombat on August 27, 2008 at 9:25am
I love that idea. It would be easy to add some chicken tractors too or even rabbits.
Joel Salatin who farms in Virginia has a whole approach to mixing up your animals and plants. At the the fairgrounds there would not be space for large critters, but chickens and bunnies along with producing row crops and perhaps some berries, a green house for greens in the winter and plant starts.
Ohh get on those grant proposals!
Comment by shotsie on August 27, 2008 at 9:28am
The acreage in question is much too valuable to turn over to agriculture - it would be much cheaper to expand the operation at the Rio Grande Community Farms than it is to even dream about converting the Fairgrounds into an agriculture oasis. And they do charge plenty for parking already.
My view is that they should turn the field into a multipurpose athletic field - high school football in the fall, high school track and field, soccer in the spring,, maybe a pro soccer league during the summer. Milne Stadium is a dump.

(but I would be interested in continuing this conversation.)
Comment by Mary Schmidt on August 27, 2008 at 9:57am
I love the idea of sustainable farming and a market. You could - with some thinking - determine how to make it a real money maker (and visitor draw) for the city. (But, please city and state government - think about talking to the business consultants, urban planners, designers, and farming/environmental experts who are already here...instead of spending a ton of money on an big outside consulting firm that will ultimately tell you what we would have - and much sooner and in better "how to get it actually done" detail.)

As for the multi-purpose athletic field - would people actually drive "all the way" there? - to what is viewed by many as a bad part of town? (I know people who never venture downtown or to Nob Hill. It's scary outside of suburbia!)
Comment by Brendan on August 27, 2008 at 10:03am
Considering the presence of similar farming facilities and expos in the north valley, this seems a little redundant. In a similar vein though, having the fair grounds host a state farmer's market would be excellent. See what they do in North Carolina for an example of what this looks like.
Comment by Mary Schmidt on August 27, 2008 at 11:15am
Hey, I come down that way all the time. Love Tailin and El Mezquite. And my little 'hood is "in transition" as well. But, really, it's quiet - I've only seen one SWAT team bust a neighbor in the last year! ;-) But, they did it quietly.

By comparison, when I lived in a far North Abq "upscale" neighborhood - a guy kicked in my front door in the middle of the day. So, I always have to chuckle a bit when people start worrying about the "bad" areas of our city. Granted, we all need to work to make our city better and safer (for everyone) - but the worst part of Albuquerque is safer in the middle of the night than some areas of Dallas and Philadelphia in broad daylight (I've lived in both cities. "Um, no thank you. Really, I don't want to buy any crack while I'm stopped at this light." But, thanks for asking!")
Comment by Celine on August 27, 2008 at 11:35am
I live in the southeast end of Nob Hill, used to live up in the foothills and got tired of being half an hour from everything, love walking everywhere, and I would LOVE a huge state-market, it would give me someplace to ride the rapid-ride TO (I work at home). A gardening/stable area for crack-belt kids to get into 4H would be nice, or community gardening for same . . . what is the crack-belts real name anyway?
Downtown and nobhill aren't scary, I do with that we had anti=panhandling laws, as in anyone can be on the street, even have a little basket or can for donations, but no asking for the money . . . I think it is the approach rather than the presence of street people that scares most.
Comment by Josh on August 27, 2008 at 11:46am
I don't really care what they do with the race track portion of the grounds, your market idea sounds great, but I would love for them to take advantage of this opportunity and tear down Tingley and build a new arena/concert venue to match the offerings they have in Phoenix and Denver. Why build downtown and deal with all of that frustration when this location is already prime for it.
Comment by Kemper Barkhurst on August 27, 2008 at 1:17pm
This concept is to benefit the local communities that surround the fairgrounds. I don't think larger venues will benefit the area. Keep in mind, this will be your tax dollars (statewide) at work and an urban farm would be the anti-development approach. These communities are much better served for those who can't easily travel to the farms in the valley. Community gardening does take a lot of work and being near the garden is always good. Also, the State Fair will help shine a lot of light on the sustainability subject. Albuquerque's food demands are certainly not sustainable with what's currently available. Our local food options are a mere percentage of the market.
Comment by shotsie on August 27, 2008 at 2:09pm
Maybe you farmer types should ask the organizers of Farmer's Mkts at Talin and at Morningside park what they gross before dreaming of a bigger Farmer's Mkt. You have to be more realistic - this is prime real estate, being near the University and the major malls.
However, I agree that building an arena on this property would be beneficial to the community, and might short circuit Mayor Marty's grand (and very expensive) schemes for downtown. The State Fairgrounds has the potential to be our true Civic Center.
Comment by once banned twice shy on August 27, 2008 at 2:41pm
I vote for a velodrome in place of the racetrack.


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