When the University of New Mexico decided to renovate The Pit a few years ago the school knew it could come with a cost that would need to be repaid. That cost when completed in 2010 ran to the tune of $60 million, and Tim Cass, associate athletic director at New Mexico, knows that the time is past due to find a sponsor with some deep pockets who can pony up $10-15 million to cover some of that cost. Right now that debt is costing New Mexico $3 million annually and forcing cuts and taking money from other programs.
He also knows that a sponsor will probably require a name change for The Pit, one of the most iconic names in all of college basketball. "We're certainly aware of the legacy The Pit name carries not only locally, statewide, but nationally," Cass says. That is why he says the university would like to keep "The Pit" as part of whatever new name the arena gets tagged with.
Just don’t count on it. You know somehow a name like Starbucks-The Pit, or The Pit at Burger King is just not going to cut it. It would take a company like Quik Lube to win the bid.
But whatever the name, the university’s search for a sponsor has been ongoing since before 2010 so this news should not come at a surprise to Mountain West fans. The UNM administration knew from the beginning that finding a sugar daddy was going to be important as a way to pay for The Pit’s facelift. Now, after three years seeking a long-term sponsor, shopping out the naming rights is beginning to take on some urgency. You can sense that when Cass mentions in the same breath that the university would also consider naming rights to University Stadium, the Lobo’s football field.
No one can’t fault New Mexico for following after badly needed cash. Other MW schools have already seen the necessity of teaming with corporate America to improve their sports facilities. In 2003 Fresno State got $40 million over 20 years for the Save Mart Center at Fresno State. The following year Boise State’s Taco Bell Arena brought in $4 million for a 15-year naming rights agreement. In 2009, San Diego State received $6.9 million for a 10-year agreement for Viejas Arena.
So as for New Mexico's asking naming price of $10 to $15 million, considering it’s The Pit that bargain will be worth every cent.
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