Balloonists take advantage of new park expansion

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The City of Albuquerque recently completed phase one of improvements at Vista Del Norte Park, adding nearly five acres of grass just in time for Balloon Fiesta.

Pilots have been using the park as a landing site all week, turning this northeast neighborhood into quite the attraction.

"It’s been a success, again it’s a win-win and celebrates what we love about New Mexico,” said Lawrence Rael, the chief operations officer for the City of Albuquerque. “It also creates a nice opportunity for the neighborhood to be part of a ‘mini Balloon Fiesta’ so to speak because they’re all landing here."

The balloons have drawn people in across the metro, but those who live near the park say it is nice to have their own little hub close to home.

"It’s fun because it’s closer,” said Tara Fears, a nearby resident. “It’s nice to have areas all around town, probably for the balloonists too."

Hundreds of pilots have taken advantage of this landing space in past years. Now, with the expansion, the city says it can accommodate a lot more balloons, safely.

"The grass really helps because when you’re landing just on the dirt, you can potentially damage the gondola," Rael said. "The power lines are so far away from the site, there are not a lot of obstructions that way, so it does make it a really nice place to put a balloon down."

Now that the site has become a popular place to land, the city hopes balloonists will soon be able to launch from the park too.

"You have a pretty good open space area where you can get a balloon up pretty quickly, so it may become a favorite spot for a lot of the balloonists for sure," Rael said.

It may become a favorite spot for families as well.

"A lot of people are here enjoying it, a lot of kids running around. It’s a nice bigger park now," said nearby resident Rosanne Villareal.