Mayor picked bowling over casino for Albuquerque’s downtown

Rejected proposal called for tribal casino, 12,000 seat arena

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The intersection of 1st Street and Central Avenue is prime real estate in Albuquerque, sitting at the gateway to downtown Albuquerque.

Although a transportation hub and movie theater occupy the south side of Central right now, the north side of Central is mostly parking lots. As part of efforts to revitalize the city’s downtown, city hall asked for ideas.

They got two very different proposals.

One submitted by One Central Operating Associates LLC, called for a development centered around an upscale bowling lounge. There would be office space and apartments along with a parking garage. Estimates in that proposal were it would create 200 construction jobs and 120 permanent jobs.

While the mayor’s office ultimately chose One Central’s idea, there was another proposal on the table that Mayor Richard J. Berry’s Chief of Staff Gilbert Montaño admits would’ve been a “game changer.”

That plan, submitted by Geltmore LLC and obtained by KRQE News 13, called for building a 12,000 seat multi-purpose arena and a tribal-owned casino hotel in the area of downtown between the railroad tracks, Central, 2nd Street and Tijeras Avenue.

Geltmore LLC's proposal for a 12,000 seat arena and a casino hotel near 1st and Central
Geltmore LLC’s proposal for a 12,000 seat arena and a casino hotel near 1st and Central

Under the proposal, 90 percent of the casino would be owned by a joint group of Sandia Pueblo, Isleta Pueblo, Laguna Pueblo and Santa Ana Pueblo, with the remaining 10 percent split between non-gaming tribes. It would be operated by a “publicly traded NYSE gaming company.” It would have been a part of a 400 room hotel located at the corner of 2nd and Tijeras across from the convention center.

The 12,000 seat arena would be built between the railroad tracks and cover the section where 1st currently runs.

Negotiations and construction of all of it would be complicated and time-consuming, especially because the land would have to be put into a trust and not all of it currently belongs to the city. However, the proposal estimates that if completed, the plan would create 4,600 to 4,800 jobs.

“We took it very seriously and evaluated all the pros and cons,” Montano said. “Although on paper and pencil it was the most viable option, it was an absolute no from the mayor’s perspective.”

Montaño says the administration’s chief objection was that a casino wouldn’t be the family friendly fit envisioned for downtown Albuquerque. The decision was made to trade jobs to keep gambling out of that part of the city.

“At the end of the day we feel like we made the right decision,” Montaño said.

David Silverman with Geltmore LLC declined an interview for this story saying he didn’t want to “take anything away” from the winning proposal.

The city is currently in negotiations with One Central. Timelines submitted by the developer estimate the project could be built by 2017.

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