ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — So how many seats are there in the Pit since the 2010 renovation?
And how many will be available for the NCAA Tournament, if the University of New Mexico and Albuquerque land a successful bid for 2016, 2017 or 2018?
A Pit sellout for a Lobo basketball game is now announced at 15,411 as opposed to 18,018 prior to reconstruction. But figuring the exact number of seats isn’t that simple.
In 2010, UNM associate athletic director Tim Cass said capacity would drop from 18,018 to around 17,100. But he said the 18,018 figure was misleading, and there were actually only 16,500 seats in the old Pit. He said there would be around 1,000 to 1,200 fewer seats in the new version, but that standing-room tickets would be increased.
Standing room availability, indeed, was increased from 1,000 to 1,715. However UNM chooses not to sell those tickets.
Athletic department officials say they aren’t interested in diminishing the game experience for ticket holders who come to every game all season by adding another 1,000 or so fans for the big games. That would make concession lines, concourse level foot traffic, restroom lines and parking lots more crowded.
On Tuesday, Cass told the Journal that “At this point, standing-room-only tickets would not be sold” for possible NCAA Tournaments in the Pit.
According to figures provided to the Journal from the UNM ticket office, there are 1,607 fewer seats in the Pit since the renovation, and another 1,000 fewer fans get in because there are no standing-room tickets sold. Thus, 2,607 fewer fans are able to attend games since the renovation.
That has led to a lot of fans going ticket-less on some game days.
“The demand has been really high for games like San Diego State, UNLV and New Mexico State the past few years,” said Mark Koson, director of ticket services at UNM for 21 years. “Games are selling out quicker. I’d say demand on tickets is at all-time high since I’ve been here.”
Both the old 18,018 and new 15,411 capacity Pit figures include 417 non-paying attendees – the number of estimated band members, media, Pit workers, cheerleaders and such.
For NCAA Tournament games, Koson said capacity gets reduced another 865, leaving the Pit with 14,129 seats.
“We’re a smaller building now, but the NCAA did enjoy it the last time they were here (in 2012),” said Mike Haggerty, UNM’s assistant athletic director of events who will make the bids this summer for the 2016, ’17 and ’18 tournaments. “We’re a smaller building compared to some of the places, like the MSG, Memphis – they have 18-to-20,000 seat stadiums.
“… I don’t think there’s a cutoff (for seating capacity), but (the NCAA) definitely wants to sell tickets.”