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Money vs. Morals

Baseball may or may not be coming to Santa Fe, but the talk is all beer

November 7, 2011, 1:00 pm
By R Harrison Dilday

The question of beer sales at Fort Marcy Ballpark continues divide the City Different. Some maintain beer is good for baseball, while others say it's unnecessary and even harmful. Though no hard figures for cost or proposed profit have been projected, for many, the argument comes down to money versus morals.

With mixed results, several city committees have already voted on an amendment to a city ordnance that would allow alcohol sales in the ballpark.

The ordinance to ban alcohol sales in city parks was passed in 2009, in response to the death of four teenagers in an alcohol-related auto accident. 

Proponents of the amendment are steadfast in saying beer goes hand in hand with baseball and that, without it, ticket sales will not be enough to support a Santa Fe baseball team.

“What I’m looking for here is opportunity,” City Councilor Ron Trujillo told SFR, “a chance to have an entertainment venue that the city has never really had before.” 

In July, Andrew Dunn, New Mexico commissioner of the Pecos Baseball League, told the Santa Fe New Mexican that beer sales are a “must” if Santa Fe wants to host a successful ball team. 

In addition to allowing alcohol sales, the amendment would require the Pecos League to pay the city “costs reasonably related to the operation and use of the Fort Marcy Ballpark for professional baseball games” though no actual figures have been proposed. 

“I don’t know how to interpret that reasonably,” City Councilor Patti Bushee said in a recent Financial Committee meeting, “I thought this committee’s charge would be more than to look at the establishment of a beer garden.”

“I see economic development,”  Trujillo said, explaining his support for the amendment. “In my opinion, Fort Marcy is underutilized in what it is used for.”

 

The city has taken a long, hard look at Fort Marcy since the Financial Committee meeting, and although the Pecos League has requested only that the pitcher’s mound be modified and a few holes in the fence be repaired, part of the city's inspection includes a survey for compliance with the American Disabilities Act.

Joe Lujan, the city’s ADA coordinator, says the results of the survey have raised issues that would require nearly $450,000 to fix. Specific areas of concern include restroom facilities and parking. 

Opponents of the amendment have rallied around the ADA issue as an argument that hosting a semi-professional baseball team would not be cost effective to the city.

But despite the results of the survey, “the city is not required to bring the ballpark into compliance.” Lujan explains. Fort Marcy may be out of ADA compliance, but is still ADA accessible. “It is a public facility that is in use right now,” Lujan adds.

 

 

Even if no major improvements to the ballpark are needed to host a ballgame, the cost of staffing the park during games will still draw from the city’s pocket. 

Fabian Chavez, the city Parks/Trails/Watershed Division director, explained his intention to the Finance Committee to have city personnel present at the games to clean the grounds and restrooms. But the money for those workers would have to come from another source, “It’s not in my budget to do any overtime work during the game itself,” Fabian explained. 

And this is where the beer sales become important again. According to Dunn, “the city itself would obtain a municipal liquor license and maintain the beer garden,” though the beer sponsors would pay the cost of building and maintaining it. 

Bushee expressed her desire that the city not acquire the license, but instead use a private entity.

Either way, “the league does not sell beer,” Dunn tells SFR. 

At the Financial Committee meeting, Dunn gave an example of two cities in New Mexico that last year both hosted teams for the Pecos League: Alamogordo and Ruiduso. Alamogordo allowed beer sales and enjoyed an economically successful season; Ruiduso banned alcohol and found it could not maintain adequate ticket sales. At the end of the season, the Pecos League dropped the Ruiduso team.

Finances make up only half the story, however, as both supporters and opponents of the amendment have voiced opinions about the morality of the city selling alcohol.

Maria Bautista, who manages several properties in the neighborhood surrounding Fort Marcy, has attended every public hearing to oppose the amendment. She raises concern over the message the city is sending about drinking and driving.

By passing the 2009 ordinance, "the city took a stand against alcohol abuse,” Bautista says, “but now what message are they sending by allowing waivers and amendments whenever they like?”

Dunn admits there are only two possible beer sponsors, either Budweiser or Coors, an issue Bautista points out is not in line with Santa Fe’s usual preference for local companies. Bushee also tried to require the amendment to only allow local brews to be served at the park.

Dunn wants to put a team in Santa Fe, saying it would, “capture the flag for professional baseball in New Mexico.” However, he claims that the banning of beer sales “shows no support from the city. No support means an unsuccessful team.”

The logo of the proposed 
Santa Fe Mountain Lions

“Beer is the final step in bringing the team to Santa Fe,” Dunn continued, but if he would bring the team without the amendment, Dunn explains, “I just don’t know the answer to that question.”

The amendment was passed by the Public Safety Committee but rejected by the Public Works Committee. The Finance Committee deferred the decision (twice), and the Parks and Open Spaces Committee voted against.

The final City Council vote is scheduled for Nov. 9.



 

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