New Mexico town to be training center

Sept. 29, 2004 at 6:40 PM

SOCORRO, N.M., Sept. 29 (UPI) -- A New Mexico university Wednesday assumed ownership of an abandoned town that will become one of the nation's top counter-terrorism training centers.

New Mexico Tech, a state research university, is the new owner of Playas, a former Phelps Dodge company town with 259 homes that will become a "real world" training center.

New Mexico Tech President Daniel H. Lopez and Phelps Dodge officials signed off on the $5 million deal, making the mining and technology school the only university known to own its own town.

Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and the late Rep. Joseph Skeen were instrumental in obtaining the funding from the Department of Homeland Security and approval for the purchase.

Playas was a bustling company town with a peak population of about 1,000 people in the 1970s. When Phelps Dodge closed its nearby copper-smelting operation in 1999, most of the workers moved elsewhere leaving behind a ghost town.

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