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: 176

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 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 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 shotsie on August 27, 2008 at 3:13pm
Yeah, the velodrome - I forgot about that - another Mayor Marty build it and they will come venture.... Actually, not a bad idea for the Fairgrounds - wasn't it suppose to support itself through betting on who would win? Perfect to replace a horsetrack....
Comment by mombat on August 27, 2008 at 3:29pm
I think there is room to re-develop the edges of the fairgrounds and leave a big green space.
If higher density occurred on the edges it would add to the area and would leave the center open.
The area idea is also a possiblity and it would be betterthen downtown.
Razing and re-building is way to expensive.
Comment by Brendan on August 27, 2008 at 4:22pm
Kemper, which local communities are you looking to benefit? Families, small businesses, large businesses with a significant local headcount? I find all the references from others' posts to the fairgrounds being prime real estate to be somewhat disturbing (Like calling your home an investment). It's unfortunate, but that mindset is what your proposal is competing against. My personal preference for the place is that it be made into a cultural melting-pot. Foster the best elements of different cultures to develop the spaces. Not unlike shopping in Ta-Lin, only with community centers, parks, performance facilities in addition to stores and restaurants. The single greatest thread to changing the fair grounds is corporate interest so in that regard a farming expo/market would be better, but it could be so much more.
Comment by Brendan on August 27, 2008 at 4:24pm
I mean threat, not thread. Anything we do now needs to be something that we'll be proud of when we're old.
Comment by shotsie on August 27, 2008 at 5:59pm
Brendan: Prime real estate means pricey - as in - worth millions of dollars. The fairgrounds has lots of interesting buildings, and a nice, park-like atmosphere, but it needs something better than Tingley for it's focal point. Turning the inside of the racetrack into some local farmer cooperative isn't making the best use of the property - that can be done at the Rio Grande Community Farms (where I happen to garden - there's lots of empty plots there, btw.)
I happen to think that the racetrack would be ideal for high school and personal sports (it has built-in bleachers for parents to cheer their kids), but there could be other uses that would add value and visitors to that area.


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