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Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Aerial view of suburban Rio Rancho
Aerial view of suburban Rio Rancho
Official seal of Rio Rancho, New Mexico
"The City of Vision"
Location within Sandoval County
Location within Sandoval County
Rio Rancho, New Mexico is located in New Mexico
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Location in New Mexico
Rio Rancho, New Mexico is located in the United States
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
Location in the United States
Country United States
State New Mexico
Counties Sandoval, Bernalillo
Founded 1961
Incorporated 1981
 • City 103.69 sq mi (268.56 km2)
 • Land 103.42 sq mi (267.86 km2)
 • Water 0.27 sq mi (0.71 km2)
5,282 ft (1,610 m)
 • City 87,521
 • Estimate 
 • Density 958.97/sq mi (370.26/km2)
 • Metro
907,755 (MSA)
Time zone UTC−07:00 (Mountain)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−06:00 (Mountain)
ZIP Codes
87124, 87144, 87174
Area code(s) 505
FIPS code 35-63460
GNIS feature ID 1699884
Primary Airport Albuquerque International Sunport
ABQ (Major/International)
Secondary Airport Double Eagle II Airport
KAEG (Public)

Rio Rancho (Spanish: Río Rancho) is the largest and only city in Sandoval County, part of the expansive Albuquerque metropolitan area, in the U.S. state of New Mexico. A small portion of the city extends into northern Bernalillo County.

It is the third-largest city in New Mexico, and one of the most rapidly growing. As of the 2010 census, Rio Rancho had a population of 87,521. The name Rio Rancho derives from Los Ranchos, the Spanish colonial ranches established along the Rio Grande in the Albuquerque Basin, and throughout historic Nuevo México. There were large ranches also in neighboring Corrales. Since the late 20th century, it has developed as a suburb of Albuquerque.


Rio Rancho Estates in 1970

The Rio Rancho area was originally part of the Alameda Grant, which was founded by the Spanish in 1710. By the early 20th century, much of the land grant had been sold to land investment companies. Amrep Corporation purchased 55,000 acres (22,000 ha) in 1961 and turned the land into a housing development called "Rio Rancho Estates", with the first families moving in the early 1960s. Most of these early residents were New Yorkers, as the developers advertised heavily in New York media. The population grew ten-fold between 1970 and 1980, and the City of Rio Rancho was incorporated in 1981. The opening of a large Intel Corporation plant in 1981 had a major economic impact on the city.

Since the 1990s, Rio Rancho has taken steps to become more independent from neighboring Albuquerque, including the establishment of separate school and library systems and attempts to attract businesses to the area. The city's latest project is the Downtown City Centre development that includes a new city hall building, a new University of New Mexico West and Central New Mexico Community College campus, as well as the Santa Ana Star Center. The arena opened in October 2006. City Hall opened in September 2007.


Rio Rancho Population Growth
Census data and expectations
Historical population
Census Pop.
1980 9,985
1990 32,551 226.0%
2000 51,765 59.0%
2010 87,521 69.1%
2019 (est.) 99,178 13.3%
Sources: 1980–2000

Of 18,995 households, 40.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.4% were married couples living together, 10.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 25.7% were not families; 20.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 7.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.70 and the average family size was 3.14.

In the city, the population was distributed as 29.2% under the age of 18, 7.0% from 18 to 24, 32.0% from 25 to 44, 20.1% from 45 to 64, and 11.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females, there were 94.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.9 males.

The median income for city was $47,169, and for a family was $52,233. Males had a median income of $39,162 versus $27,385 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,322. About 3.7% of families and 5.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.1% of those under age 18 and 5.8% of those age 65 or over.


Rio Rancho is located at 35°17'10" North, 106°40'14" West (35.286185, -106.670660). It lies in the Albuquerque Basin to the west of the Rio Grande, which bounds the northeast corner of the city. An escarpment lies to the west of the city limit.

Rio Rancho is bordered by Albuquerque to the south, the Santa Ana Indian Reservation to the north, and Bernalillo and Corrales to the east.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 103.7 sq mi (268.5 km2), of which 103.4 square miles (267.7 km2) is land and 0.31 sq mi (0.8 km2), or 0.31%, is covered by water.


Rio Rancho is in an arid climate.

Climate data for Rio Rancho, New Mexico (1981–2010 normals)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 74
Average high °F (°C) 53
Average low °F (°C) 30
Record low °F (°C) 5
Average precipitation inches (mm) 0.33
Source: Weather Channel


Albuquerque's transit department, ABQ RIDE, operates a bus route (251 Albuquerque-Rio Rancho Rail Runner Connection) connecting Rio Rancho with the New Mexico Rail Runner Express station at Journal Center.

In late January 2011, ABQ RIDE extended two additional routes (96 Crosstown Commuter and 155 Coors Blvd), and introduced an additional route (551 Jefferson/Paseo Del Norte Express) into Rio Rancho. The northern terminus of these routes is at Southern Blvd and Unser Blvd.

The Rio Metro Regional Transportation District operates Rio Transit, a door-to-door paratransit service for senior citizens 55 years of age and older, and disabled adults 18 years of age and older, for residents of Rio Rancho. The service is operated from the Meadowlark Senior Center, and provides service Monday-Friday from 7:30 am to 3:00 pm. Riders must register with the service prior to using it and reserve time slots well in advance.

Rio Metro RTD also operates a commuter bus route serving the Enchanted Hills neighborhood in Rio Rancho. This service connects residents of Enchanted Hills to the US 550 New Mexico Rail Runner station and provides service during the morning and evening commutes. Rio Metro Bus connections are available at the US 550 Rail Runner station for Zia Pueblo, San Ysidro, Canon, and Jemez Springs. A Rio Metro commuter bus route provides service to and from the Cuba NM area, with a Park and Ride designated at Home Depot, which is located near the corner of NM 528, NM 550. Rio Metro's website and schedules may be viewed at:


Intel in Rio Rancho
Intel opened in the mid 1980s.
Largest Employers in Rio Rancho
1 Intel Corporation
2 Rio Rancho Public Schools
3 Hewlett-Packard
4 Presbyterian Health Services
5 Sprint Corporation
6 Bank of America
7 Stream Global
8 Alliance Data Inc.
9 U.S. Cotton
10 Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

The Intel Corporation is by far the largest employer in Rio Rancho. The services, retail, and government sectors are also major components of the local economy.

Rio Rancho is the site of Intel's Intel Fab 11X, one of the largest semiconductor fabrication plants in the world. The fully automated, $2 billion facility opened in 2002 and was the first Intel plant to manufacture 300 mm silicon wafers, which can hold almost twice as many chips as the standard 200 mm wafers. Fab 7, Intel's original Rio Rancho plant, closed in 2002, but is being converted into a test facility.

In 2005, Rio Rancho became the first U.S. city to offer citywide voice-over-WiFi (VoWiFi) service. Many residents complained that the service did not live up to their expectations.

Several call centers are located in Rio Rancho. Walmart opened in early summer of 2006 in Rio Rancho, and was a catalyst for related commercial retailers to locate nearby.

An Albuquerque-based incubator and co-working space "FatPipe" opened a satellite office in Rio Rancho. It is intended to spur business innovation and startups within the city.

New projects

Rust Medical Center
Rust Medical center opened in 2011.

New construction of large facilities include:

  • City Centre development
  • Loma Colorado development
  • Mariposa, a 6,500-acre (26 km2) development
  • University of New Mexico West Campus (early 2000s)
  • Hewlett Packard and expansions
  • Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) - Construction now complete.
  • A 75-acre (300,000 m2) development on Unser Boulevard in the southwestern part of the city, including a facility for the Presbyterian Rust Medical Center, opened October 17, 2011. It is part of a planned multi-use development of office and retail space, a hotel, and a 12-screen Century-branded Cinemark movie theater, with Cinemark XD theater. Construction was proposed to take place between 2010 and 2013, but little had been started by late 2012.
  • A 14-screen Premiere Cinemas theater was built at the corner of Southern and Unser boulevards.


In 2010 the City Council passed an automatic annual increase in water rate, equivalent to 25% over a five-year period.

Housing and development

In the aftermath of the collapse of the 2008 housing bubble, foreclosure activity increased in the city. The economies of Sandoval, Bernalillo, and Valencia counties suffered markedly in the late 2000s recession.

As of the late 2010s, housing had entirely recovered. A number of new housing developments were restarted. Real estate sales were robust in 2020 in many areas of Rio Rancho, driven by low interest rates and relatively low housing prices ($250,000 - $350,000 for most new construction).


In 2017, Rio Rancho hosted the National Speleological Society's annual convention.

The city constructed A Park Above, a structure in the south of the city for youth recreation.


Santa Ana Star Center
Santa Ana Star Center

Rio Rancho was home to the New Mexico Scorpions minor-league ice hockey team, which relocated from Albuquerque in 2006, until the team ceased operations in 2009. The Scorpions played at Santa Ana Star Center.

In the spring of 2008, the Star Center became the home of the New Mexico Wildcats indoor football team. They lasted two seasons, folding at the conclusion of 2009.

Starting in fall of 2010, the Star Center was home to the New Mexico Thunderbirds of the NBA Development League and the New Mexico Mustangs of the North American Hockey League (NAHL). The Mustangs' NAHL membership was transferred to Richfield, Minnesota, in 2012. The New Mexico Thunderbirds announced in July 2011 that the team was sold to the Cleveland Cavaliers and will be moved to Canton, Ohio, for the upcoming season.

Since February 2012, Rio Rancho has been the location of the New Mexico Stars, a professional indoor football team. They play home games at the Santa Ana Star Center, with whom they signed a five-year contract.

Rio Rancho is also the home city of New Mexico Strongman, an amateur organization dedicated to promoting and hosting strongman competitions in New Mexico.


The University of New Mexico has a satellite campus in Rio Rancho devoted to health sciences.

Central New Mexico Community College also has one of its eight campuses in Rio Rancho's downtown area, within walking distance of the UNM campus.

Rio Rancho Public Schools serve students in most of Rio Rancho. Rio Rancho has two major public high schools:

  • V. Sue Cleveland High School (opened in 2009)
  • Rio Rancho High School (opened in 1997)

Other schools include:

  • Mountain View Middle School
  • Eagle Ridge Middle School
  • Lincoln Middle School
  • Rio Rancho Middle School
  • Independence High school
  • Vista Grande Elementary School
  • Enchanted Hills Elementary School
  • Cielo Azul Elementary School
  • Colinas Del Norte Elementary School
  • Sandia Vista Elementary School
  • MLK Elementary School
  • Maggie Cordoba Elementary School

Sections of Rio Rancho in most of Bernalillo County are zoned to Albuquerque Public Schools. A portion of the Rio Rancho Public School District extends into Bernalillo County.

In addition, Rio Rancho has two public charter schools called The ASK Academy and Cyber Academy, serving grades 6-12. They both focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.

Notable people

  • Alan Branch, NFL player
  • Craig Brandt, member of the New Mexico Senate
  • Jason Harper, engineer and member of the New Mexico House of Representatives
  • Norio Hayakawa, activist and ufologist
  • Joshua Hernandez, member of the New Mexico House of Representatives
  • Tim Lewis, member of the New Mexico House of Representatives
  • Sean McPherson, former member of the South Dakota House of Representatives
  • Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, librarian and author
  • Blake Swihart, MLB catcher
  • Richard V. Thomas, former member of the Wyoming Supreme Court
  • Chris Williams, NFL and CFL wide receiver

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Río Rancho para niños

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