Alamogordo, city (1990 pop. 27,596), seat of Otero co., S N.Mex., near the Sacramento Mts.; inc. 1912. Holloman Air Force Base, home to U.S. stealth aircraft, is there, and the White Sands Missile Range is nearby. The city, founded in 1898 with the arrival of the Southern Pacific RR, became a regional trade center. Cattle, sheep, pecans, pistachios, fruit, alfalfa, and timber are produced. Among its industries are refrigerator production, printing and publishing, and meatpacking. New Mexico State Univ. has a branch at Alamogordo. White Sands National Monument (see National Parks and Monuments, table) lies to the west. The Trinity Site, where the first atomic bomb was exploded on July 16, 1945, is northwest. A space shuttle landing site, the International Space Hall of Fame, the Mescalero (Apache) Reservation, and Lincoln National Forest are nearby.
Alamogordo is a city in Otero County, New Mexico, United States of America. The population was 35,582 at the 2000 census. The city name is a Spanish word meaning "fat cottonwood". It is the county seat of Otero County. Holloman Air Force Base and White Sands Missile Range are two major military bases located near Alamogordo. The town has had its share of notability as the first test site for the atomic bomb and home to The White Sands International Film Festival.


Alamogordo was founded in June, 1898, when the El Paso and Northwestern Railroad, owned by Charles B. Eddy, extended the railway to the town. Eddy influenced the design of the community, which included large wide thoroughfares and tree-lines irrigation canals. The name of the city was derived from the cottonwood tree. "Alamo Gordo" in Spanish translates to "fat cottonwood".

Alamogordo's original city plan calls for east-west streets to be given numerical designations, while north-south streets have names that fall into related themes (states, presidents and universities). US 54 becomes "White Sands Blvd." in Alamogordo, however, it was originally named "Pennsylvania Ave".

Several buildings in Alamogordo were constructed by the Works Progress Administration. These include the Federal Building at 1101 New York Avenue, a Pueblo style building originally constructed as the main U.S. Post Office in 1938. The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The main entrance portico features frescoes by Peter Hurd completed in 1942. The Post Office moved out in 1961, and the building was used by a succession of Federal agencies. It is currently occupied by the United States Forest Service as the headquarters of the Lincoln National Forest. The Forest Service plans to move to a larger building, and ownership of the Federal Building will be transferred to Otero County government and the building will be used for county government offices.

Atomic research

The first atomic bomb in history was detonated at the Alamogordo Test Range on July 16, 1945. The site of the explosion, called Trinity Site, is located on property owned by the present-day White Sands Missile Range. This was the only nuclear test that took place at this location. Trinity Site is located approximately from Alamogordo. The site is open to visitors on the first Saturday in April and first Saturday in October.

Aeronautics and space exploration

On December 10, 1954 Colonel John Paul Stapp rode a rocket sled at Holloman AFB just outside Alamogordo that decelerated from 632 to 0 miles per hour in one and one-quarter seconds. His body experienced 46.2 times the force of gravity, in essence making him weigh 6,800 pounds for that brief time. At the time he was leading an Air Force team investigating the effects on the body of high altitude ejection seats.

Ham was the world's first astrochimp, trumpeted by the United States as "the first free creature in outer space". He was named for the acronym of "Holloman Aero Medical" where he was trained. He blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on January 31, 1961, and traveled 155 miles in 16.5 minutes before splashing down safely in the Atlantic. After Ham died in 1983 at age 27, his body was shipped west and was buried in the front lawn of the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo, under the first slab of natural-tone concrete poured in Otero County. Holloman AFB maintained a Simian Immuno Virus (SIV) lab throughout the 1980's.

In March 1982, Space Shuttle Columbia ended the third Shuttle mission, STS-3, by making the only landing to ever occur outside of California or Florida. The orbiter touched down at White Sands Space Harbor near Alamogordo.

Book Burnings

Alamogordo briefly made international news in late 2001 when Christ Community Church held a public book burning on December 30. Items burned included books in the Harry Potter series,

novels by J. R. R. Tolkien

and Stephen King,

Star Wars material, Complete Works of William Shakespeare,


and a Ouija board.

Pastor Jack Brock called the Potter books \"a masterpiece of Satanic deception\"

and said the character taught children to take up wizardry.

\"The greatest danger is these children are enamored with Potter and they go on the Internet to learn more about the book, and they're directed to other places where they can see information about Wicca,\" Brock said.

After the event Brock wrote, "At our holy bonfire, some burned books they felt to be a personal hindrance to them spiritually, not only 'Potter' materials but also pornographic magazines, an Ouija board, and some burned other books."

Several hundred people protested the event.

"Burning books leads to ignorance and that's why I'm standing out here," said Vicky O'Reilly.

"It may be useless but we want (the church) to know the community is not behind them," said Joann Booth.

Alamogordo Public Library continued a display of Harry Potter books that was originally mounted in conjunction with the movie premiere of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (film).

Cash donations were made to the library, and library director Jim Preston said "With this money we are purchasing additional copies of Harry Potter, Tolkien, and Shakespeare."


Alamogordo is located at (32.895940, -105.952134), which places it on the western flank of the Sacramento Mountains and on the eastern edge of the Tularosa Basin. Elevation is 4334 feet.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 19.4 square miles (50.1 km²), all of it land.


Census 2000 data

As of the census of 2000, there were 35,582 people, 13,704 households, and 9,728 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,839.0 people per square mile (710.0/km²). There were 15,920 housing units at an average density of 822.8/sq mi (317.7/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 75.4% White; Hispanic or Latino of any race were 32.0% of the population, with 5.6% African American, 1.1% Native American, 1.5% Asian, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 12.1% from other races, and 4.2% from two or more races.

There were 13,704 households out of which 36.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.6% were married couples living together, 11.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.0% were non-families. 25.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.57 and the average family size was 3.07.

In the city the population was spread out with 28.7% under the age of 18, 9.2% from 18 to 24, 29.7% from 25 to 44, 19.9% from 45 to 64, and 12.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 97.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.1 males.

In 1999 the median income for a household in the city was $30,928, and the median income for a family was $35,673. Males had a median income of $28,163 versus $18,860 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,662. About 13.2% of families and 16.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.9% of those under age 18 and 11.8% of those age 65 or over.

2007 estimates

Alamogordo's July 1, 2007 population was estimated at 35,607 by the United States Census Bureau's Population Estimates Program.


Otero County non-agricultural civilian employment 2006
Agriculture, forestry, fishing & hunting 100
Mining 28
Utilities 68
Construction 1,348
Manufacturing 227
Wholesale trade 211
Retail trade 2,052
Transportation & warehousing 537
Information 234
Finance & insurance 436
Real estate & rental & leasing 162
Professional & technical services 729
Management of companies & enterprises 43
Administrative & waste services 883
Educational services 48
Health care & social assistance 1,994
Arts, entertainment & recreation 63
Accommodation & food services 1,590
Other services, except public admin 423
Non-classifiable 3
Total private sector 11,179
Federal 2,004
State 801
Local 3,838
Public administration 6,643
Grand total 17,822
Source: New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions, Employment Statistics, Table D

Alamogordo today has very little manufacturing and has a primarily service and retail economy, driven by tourism, a large nearby military installation and a concentration of military retirees. In 2006 the per capita income in Otero County was $22,798 versus per capita income in New Mexico of $29,929.

Economic history

Alamogordo was founded as a company town to support the building of the El Paso and Northeastern Railroad, a portion of the transcontinental railway that was being constructed in the late 1800s. Initially its main industry was timbering for railroad ties. The railroad founders were also ambitious to found a major town here, that would persist after the railroad was completed, and formed the Alamogordo Improvement Company to develop the area. Tourism became an important part of the local economy from the creation of White Sands National Monument in 1934. Construction began on the Alamogordo Army Air Field (the present-day Holloman Air Force Base) in 1942, and the Federal government has been a strong presence in Alamogordo ever since. Education has also been an important part of the local economy. In addition to the local school system, Alamogordo is home to the New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, founded in 1903, and a branch of New Mexico State University founded in 1958.

Military impact

Nearby Holloman Air Force Base is the largest employer in Alamogordo, and has a major effect on the local economy. According to the 49th Fighter Wing Public Affairs office, as of January 2008 Holloman directly employs 6,111 person with a gross payroll of $266 million. It indirectly creates another 2,047 jobs with a payroll of $77 million. The estimated amount spent in the community, including payroll, construction projects, supplies, services, health care, and education, is $482 million.

An estimated 6,700 military retirees live in the area. Counting both USAF and German Air Force personnel there are 1,383 active military and 1,641 military dependents living on base and 2,765 active military and 2,942 military dependents living off base.

Future Combat Systems is a wide-ranging modernization project of the US Army. Much of the work will be done at Fort Bliss, with some at White Sands Missile Range and some at Holloman Air Force Base. Alamogordo is expected to get some economic benefit due to its proximity to these three bases.

Economic development

Otero County Economic Development Council is a nonprofit organization founded in 1984. Its focus has generally been on job creation and recruiting and expanding businesses in Otero County, including helping them satisfy business regulations in New Mexico and lining up funding. Its role expanded in 2000 when Alamogordo passed an Economic Development Gross Receipts Tax. OCEDC continues to work to attract businesses, but now it also helps develop the incentive packages that will be paid by the new tax, and a portion of the tax receipts go to fund OCEDC's operating expenses. Formal economic development plans have been adopted by Alamogordo and by Otero County and are available for review.

Employers recruited by OCEDC using financial incentives include:

  • a 1-800-Flowers call center that opened in November 2001 and received $1.25 million in city rent abatements from City of Alamogordo, a 50% reduction in property taxes from Otero County, and $940,000 in-plant training funds from the state
  • a Sunbaked Biscuits cookie factory that opened in 2006 and received $800,000 in job-training incentives from the state
  • a Marietta Baking cookie factory, that took over the Sunbaked Biscuits factory when the latter went out of business in 2007, and received some interest-free loans, some job-training incentives, and some forgiveness of indebtedness for job creation
  • a branch office of PreCheck Inc., a company performing background checks of health-care workers, opened in 2006. They received $2.4 million in high-wage job creation tax credits, $1.5 million in job-training subsidies, $1.5 million in capital outlay money for roads and infrastructure, a $625,000 allocation from City of Alamogordo for upgrading sewer lines in the area, and 20.8 aces of land from Heritage Group, a developer.

The Otero County Film Office, an office of Otero County Economic Development Council, promotes filmmaking in Otero County by publicizing film locations in the county and New Mexico's film financial incentive programs and by recruiting extras for film productions. It sponsors the Desert Light Film Competition for middle and high school students to encourage learning about the film industry. The 2007 film Transformers spent $5.5 million in New Mexico and $1 million in Alamogordo.

A spaceport tax district is being formed in 2008 to fund construction of Spaceport America near Upham, New Mexico. Doña Ana County and Sierra County are members of the spaceport tax district and Otero County is considering joining the district.

Arts and culture

There are two amateur theatrical groups in Alamogordo. Alamogordo Music Theatre puts on two musical productions each year at the Flickinger Center for Performing Arts. The NMSU-A Theatre on the Hill usually puts on one performance a year at the Rohovec Fine Arts Center on the New Mexico State University at Alamogordo campus.

Annual cultural events

Alamogordo is home to The White Sands International Film Festival. The festival is a week long interactive event in March that showcases narrative and documentary films from around the world. The festival features and actively supports the work of Hispanic and New Mexican Filmmakers. The White Sands International Film Festival was established by local business peoples together with casting director Donn Finn, and writer Sam Smiley.

Earth Day Fair is held annually on the last Saturday in April at Alameda Park Zoo. It features a butterfly release, a science fair, activities for children, and information booths from local health agencies and nonprofits.

Otero County Fair is held annually in early August at the County Fairgrounds at the corner of White Sands Boulevard and Fairgrounds Road in Alamogordo. It features a rodeo, animal judging, food and game booths, and carnival rides. Nonprofit and government agencies set up information booths in the exhibit hall.

The Cottonwood Arts and Crafts Festival is put on each Labor Day Weekend in Alameda Park by the Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce. It is primarily a showplace for vendors of handmade items, but also features music, entertainment, and food.

White Sands Balloon Invitational is held annually in late September. Hot air balloons launch from the Riner-Steinhoff Soccerplex on First Street or from White Sands National Monument and float over the Tularosa Basin.

Oktoberfest is celebrated annually in late September, hosted by the German Air Force at Holloman Air Force Base. Everyone in the community is invited, and shuttle buses run between Alamogordo and the base.

Museums and other points of interest

New Mexico Museum of Space History is a state museum housing artifacts related to space flight. It incorporates the International Space Hall of Fame. Ham the Astrochimp is buried here.

Flickinger Center for Performing Arts, located at 1110 New York Avenue, is a 590-seat theater hosting concerts and live theatrical performances.

Alamogordo Museum of History (formerly Tularosa Basin Historical Society Museum) collects artifacts related to the history of Alamogordo and the Tularosa Basin. It is a private museum, operated by the Tularosa Basin Historical Society. Among notable items in the collection is a 47-star US Flag; New Mexico was the 47th state admitted to the Union, and US Flags were made with 47 stars for one month until Arizona was admitted. The Museum shop has a large collection of local history books. The Historical Society also publishes its own series of monographs on local history, Pioneer. The Museum is currently located at 1301 N. White Sands Boulevard, but plans to move by the end of 2008 to a historic adobe building at the corner of White Sands Boulevard and Tenth Street.

American Armed Forces Museum is a museum under construction on U. S. Route 82 near Florida Avenue. It will collect and display all kinds of military memorabilia from all wars and military engagements. It is expected to open January 2009.

References in popular culture


Alamogordo has no professional athletic teams. The Alamogordo Desert Dawgs are an amateur football team formed in 2008. They are part of the New Mexico Amateur Football League. Home games are played at Griggs Field in Alamogordo.

There are a number of annual sports events. The Tommy Padilla Memorial Basketball Tournament is an annual event held in March. It is an adult tournament that raises money for scholarships for Alamogordo High School students. Gus Macker 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament is a national program that holds a tournament in Alamogordo each year in May.

Several tournaments are held each year at Desert Lakes Golf Course, including the Robert W. Hamilton Charity Golf Classic. Many local charitable groups put on benefit tournaments at the course.

Fun run/walks are popular in Alamogordo, although most are one-shot affairs put on as part of some larger event. One recurring event is Walk Out West, a 1-1/2 mile walk held each October in Alameda Park Zoo. It incorporates a health fair, live music, and fun events for kids. An offshoot of this is Dance Otero, an informal approach to ballroom dancing as a form of physical exercise that meets throughout the year. Both programs are run through Otero PATH, a local nonprofit that encourages preventive measures for good health.

Parks and recreation

Alamogordo has numerous small parks scattered through the city, and a few larger ones. We mention here some of the more notable parks. A map of all the parks is available.

Alameda Park is a city park lying on the west side of White Sands Boulevard between Tenth Street and Indian Wells Road. Most of the park is shaded by cottonwood trees. At the south end of the park is Alameda Park Zoo, the oldest zoo in the Southwest, and at the north end is The Toy Train Depot, a railroad and toy train museum.

Washington Park is a city park in the center of town, bounded by Washington and Oregon Avenues and running from First Street to Indian Wells Road. Several city buildings are located in the park. At the north end of the park is Kids Kingdom, a children's play area with a giant jungle gym.

There are public athletic fields at the Jim R. Griggs Sports Complex, located at the corner of Florida Avenue and Fairgrounds Road, and the Travis C. Hooser Ballfield Complex (also called Walker Field) located at the corner of U.S. Route 70 and Walker Road.

The Alamogordo Family Recreation Center, at 1100 Oregon Avenue, is a city-owned facility offering a weight room, a swimming pool (open year round), and a basketball gym. There are outdoor tennis courts north of the building.

Desert Lakes Golf Course is a city-owned golf course located at the south end of town on Hamilton Road at Desert Lakes Road. It is an 18-hole course. The clubhouse houses a restaurant and a pro shop. There is a PGA golf pro on duty at the course.

Not inside the city but nearby are:


Alamogordo was incorporated in 1912. It is a charter city (also called a home rule city ), and the charter is included as Part I of the Code of Ordinances. It has a Council-manager government form of government (called Commission/Manager in New Mexico). There are seven city commissioners, each elected from a district within the city, on staggered 4-year terms.

Alamogordo's fiscal year ends on June 30 each year; thus Fiscal Year 2008 runs from July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2008. The FY 2008 budget projects income of $61,454,402 and expenditures of $73,655,777. City income comes from:

City Government publishes City Profile, a monthly print newsletter that is mailed to all households in the city and is published electronically on the city web site, and Communiqué, a blog with city news.


There are two high schools, three middle schools, and 11 elementary schools in the Alamogordo Public School District. There are two private schools in Alamogordo. Imago Dei Academy is a new private school that will provide a classical Christian education. It is planned to open in August 2008 and will initially cover kindergarten through eighth grade and gradually expand to K-12.

The German government operates the Deutsche Schule for children of German Air Force servicemen stationed at the German tactical training center at Holloman Air Force Base. The New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired is a state school located in Alamogordo.

New Mexico State University has a branch campus at Alamogordo.

Alamogordo Public Library is a public library serving Alamogordo and Otero County. The library at New Mexico State University's Alamogordo campus is also open to the public.


The only newspaper in Alamogordo is Alamogordo Daily News, owned by MediaNews Group. ADN is published six days a week; on Monday, when it does not appear, subscribers receive El Paso Times. ADN also publishes Hollogram, a free weekly newspaper distributed at nearby Holloman Air Force Base and covering happenings on base. There are no alternative newspapers in Alamogordo. The Ink is a free Las Cruces monthly newspaper devoted to the arts; it is distributed in Alamogordo.

There is one television station, KVBA-LP. It has a religious format, and a weekly local news magazine broadcast Thursday through Saturday. Cable television service is provided by Baja Broadband. Several Las Cruces, Albuquerque, and El Paso stations have relay transmitters in Alamogordo. Satellite TV systems are sold by Dish Network and DirecTV.

There are two commercial radio broadcast companies, WP Broadcasting and Burt Broadcasting; each operates several stations in several formats. There are two "listener-supported" radio stations, that do not carry advertising but depend on sponsorships and donations to survive. KUPR-FM has a gospel music format and some live coverage of local events, including many remote broadcasts from civic events. KALH-LP is a low-power FM station that carries a music variety format, network news on the hour, and local news on some hours. Neither station is an NPR affiliate. The local NPR outlet is KRWG-FM in Las Cruces, which reaches Alamogordo through a local relay transmitter.

Many movies filmed scenes in or near Alamogordo and White Sands National Monument, including: Transformers (2007), The Astronaut Farmer (2006), The Outfitters (1998), Lovest (1997), Mad Love (1995), Tank Girl (1995), New Eden (1993), White Sands (1992), Young Guns II (1990), Curse II: The Bite (1988), Young Guns (1988), Convoy (1978), The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), Scandalous John (1971).



Major highways

Three U.S. highways pass through Alamogordo:

U.S. Route 54 enters Alamogordo from the south and merges with U.S. Route 70 which enters the city from the southwest. The terminus for U.S. Route 82 is in Alamogordo and begins where U.S. Route 54 and U.S. Route 70 merge at the southern end of the city. North of Alamogordo, U.S. Route 82 diverges from the still merged U.S. Route 54 and U.S. Route 70. At this point, U.S. Route 82 turns east into the Sacramento Mountains and the Lincoln National Forest, while U.S. Route 54 and U.S. Route 70 continue north several more miles until they diverge in the neighboring village of Tularosa.

U.S. Route 54 / U.S. Route 70 splits into a business route (White Sands Boulevard) running through the city and a bypass route (Charlie T. Lee Memorial Relief Route) running west of the city.

Other transportation

Alamogordo-White Sands Regional Airport is the municipal airport serving the Alamogordo area. It is primarily used for general aviation. There is also scheduled commercial service from New Mexico Airlines, operating under a subsidy from the Essential Air Service program.

Greyhound Lines offers intercity bus service to Alamogordo. There are two taxi companies. Z-Trans is the mass transit system, providing paratransit and scheduled service within the city center and to White Sands Mall, Holloman Air Force Base and Inn of the Mountain Gods, a casino in Mescalero. Z-Trans is unusual in that it is privately-owned (by Zia Therapy Center, a non-profit), although it does get some local and state subsidies.

Alamogordo is building a network of bike routes and walking routes. More information and maps are in the Alamogordo Comprehensive Plan. The New Mexico Rails-to-Trails Association operates a Rails to Trails project to convert old railroad beds to walking trails. Its trail system in Otero County, the Cloud Climbing Rail Trail, will eventually surround Alamogordo. Otero Walkability Advocacy Group (formerly Alamogordo Walkability Advocacy Group) is a group that works to popularize walking and to make walking safer and more convenient.


Electric power and natural gas are supplied within the city by PNM Resources. PNM also provides electrical power in the Tularosa Basin, while Otero County Electric Cooperative, a member of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, serves the mountain and rural areas. The natural gas service generally does not go outside the city limits, and houses in rural areas use LP gas from house tanks, although this is not always the case.

Alamogordo has a dark sky ordinance that is intended to reduce the amount of light pollution in the night skies. City streetlights are high-pressure sodium vapor lamps. Alamogordo's dark sky ordinance is a result of the two sun and night sky observatories situated above Alamogordo in the Sacramento Mountains.

City of Alamogordo operates the water system within the city limits. Rural houses have individual wells. The city system includes a sewage treatment plant to reclaim the sewer water. The reclaimed water is used to water Desert Lakes Golf Course and city parks and is sold to construction companies for dust control.



Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center is a private not-for-profit 99-bed general hospital that serves the Alamogordo area. The hospital is a shared military/civililan facility that is also the hospital for nearby Holloman Air Force Base.

Health profile

The Otero County Community Health Council prepares a detailed health profile

each year with many facts and figures about health in Otero County. Otero County is ranked in the middle of most health rankings within the state. New Mexico is near the bottom of most national rankings, for example it was 38th in the United Health Foundation 2007 report, but has been slowly improving (it was 40th in 2005). One survey where New Mexico did well is in a book by Norman D. Ford ranking the 50 healthiest places to live and retire in the US, where 6 of the 50 places are in New Mexico. Alamogordo is one of the 50 places, and civic boosters such as the Chamber of Commerce publicize this ranking. The reason for the discrepancy seems to be that most health rankings are based on healthiness of the population, and Ford's book is based on the number of health-promoting features in the community.

Notable natives and residents

Other topics

Points of interest

Nearby towns and cities

See also


External links

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