After attendance and ticket sales sagged in the Pit in recent years, the University of New Mexico this week announced it is dropping suite prices by an average of 18 percent for the coming season.
Larry Chavez and Joyce Hitchner, the new naming rights holders to Dreamstyle Arena, plan to remodel the club level area. Also, a “modern and high-end sports bar and kitchen” will be installed in the premium seating area atop the 51-year-old basketball venue, according to a news release sent out this week by UNM.
Deputy athletic director Brad Hutchins told the Journal on Tuesday the suites will range from $30,000 to $40,000 this season, down from the $40,000-$45,000 range from this past season. They can be purchased through the Lobo Club, the fundraising arm of UNM athletics that maintains it is not technically a part of UNM athletics.
“It was important to update our pricing along with increasing the amenities in our U.S. Bank Suite and Club Level,” Hutchins said in a news release sent out Monday afternoon. “We received feedback from our stakeholders and we researched best practices.”
He added the price reduction was “being sensitive to our economy.”
New suites can be purchased through the Lobo Club.
What isn’t clear is how much money the university made, or lost, in recent years on the suites.
Average home attendance at the Pit dropped out of the top 25 nationally for the first time in its 51 years. UNM missed budgeted ticket-sale projections for men’s basketball this season by between $670,000 (reported to the Journal by UNM in March) and $857,000 (what athletics reported to the Board of Regents at an open meeting in May).
There are 40 suites in the Pit. Hutchins told the Journal during the season 28 had been sold for the 2016-17.
As watchdog website NMFishBowl.com reported last month, former athletic director Paul Krebs sent an April 19 email to Lobo Club employees asking them to start collecting past due money from suite holders who never paid.
“I want a concerted effort to collect all past due money for suites and club seats from previous years,” Krebs wrote in the email. “Have we taken anyone to collections?”
Asked by the Journal on Tuesday if all suite money was collected from just this past season, among other suite-related questions, Hutchins said a he would respond today.
The Journal also asked if suite sales follow the same policy as season tickets, which now require payment in full before the season, a change that was implemented in recent years.
Those season tickets, meanwhile, are on sale at the UNM Ticket office — in person or online at www.UNMTickets.com.
Current suite holders are being contacted this week by the Lobo Club about the price changes, UNM said. Questions about that or for those interested in purchasing a suite or club-level seating can contact Sean Ferrera with the Lobo Club at 505-925-5900.
The suite and club-level seating areas in the Pit were added to the arena as part of the 2009 remodel of the facility that dropped seating capacity from around 18,000 to 15,411.
UNM has not had a sellout in the Pit since March 7, 2015, against Wyoming, the final game of the 2014-15 season.
The Lobos have not yet finalized their 2017-18 home schedule, but could do so in the coming weeks. There are expected to be 17 regular-season home games.