New sponsor to get naming rights to The Pit
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) A home-remodeling business that operates in four states has bought the naming rights for The Pit - the University of New Mexico's famed basketball arena - and the football stadium for $10 million.
School officials and representatives of Dreamstyle Remodeling Inc. gathered at one of the company's showrooms in Albuquerque on Wednesday to make the announcement.
The 10-year deal marks the largest philanthropic agreement in the athletic department's history. Aside from naming rights, it includes contributions to the university's business management school, children's hospital and performing arts center.
Discussions with Dreamstyle owner Larry Chavez began last summer as his company pitched in to remodel the football team's offices. After spending time with the team and leadership within the athletics department, the New Mexico native said he wanted to support Lobo athletics given the dedication and passion he had witnessed.
But Chavez's connection to the Lobos goes way back. As a boy, he and friends hopped the fence when no one was looking so they could watch the first football game played at the university's stadium in 1960.
''I remember that like it was yesterday. I went home that night and dreamt of being a Lobo,'' he said. ''I didn't quite get on the field but I'm certainly a Lobo in heart and soul.''
He went on to sell sodas in the stands and eventually graduated from the university. He and his wife started their business in 1989, adding locations in Arizona, California and Idaho to become one of the largest home remodeling companies in the country.
Chavez said he believes the success of Lobo athletics can have a positive effect on the rest of the community.
Chavez presented athletics director Paul Krebs with the first payment of $1 million at the end of Wednesday's gathering. Annual payments will continue through 2027.
Krebs called it a historic day, saying that one of the attributes of a strong athletics program is that it can create opportunities for other areas within the university.
''I think it sends a message to all New Mexicans and we're all going to benefit from this generosity,'' Krebs said.
The naming rights to the basketball arena were previously held by WisePies Pizza & Salad. The university said last week that it asked the pizza chain to abandon its rights pending a new agreement with another company.
School officials said at the time that the new agreement would allow for multiple facilities to be named under one umbrella.
The Pit was renamed WisePies Arena in December 2014 under a deal that called for 10 annual installments totaling $5 million. The move drew much criticism from fans who were partial to the arena's nickname.
Under the agreement inked with Chavez's company, signage on the stadium and the arena is expected to be updated with the Dreamstyle design in the next 60 days.