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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — If you were doing water aerobics at Las Campanas in Santa Fe when a strange man dived in and joined the class, Peter Trevisani wants to thank you.
Trevisani, who now owns the thriving New Mexico United soccer team, was working on his Project 47 challenge that day – a self-imposed regimen of daily exercise for 47 consecutive days as he approached his 47th birthday. One of his rules: no activity could be repeated.
His roster included playing dodgeball with his son’s sixth-grade class, skating, training with a circus and, on Christmas Day when everything was closed, he resorted to a Richard Simmons aerobics video. (He made his family do it with him – while dressed in ’70s and ’80s gear.)
But Trevisani said it was Day 22 that stood out the most.
“I was tired. I’m in the middle of the challenge, and I’m kind of running out of things. So I went to the swimming pool, and I dive in. When I come up, I’m right in the middle of some elderly ladies. I said, ‘I’m here for water aerobics,’ and they all kind of looked at me like, ‘What’s this guy doing here?’ And one of them said, ‘Ladies, let’s show him what we’ve got.’
“My triceps were killing me the next day,” Trevisani said. “It was amazing, and it was the day I really turned the corner. And then after that, I just felt really invigorated.”
The memorable challenge came at a time when Trevisani was between jobs and figuring out what to do next. He had just left Thornburg Investment Management and a long career in finance and was spending time evaluating and recharging.
“Why had I wanted a traditional business career?” asked Trevisani, an adviser and early investor in the art collective Meow Wolf. “A lot of my drive was wanting to please my dad, my parents – things that many people go through.”
So the former Boston College football player sat down one day and made a list of the five things he loved most, besides his family: music, health and fitness, immersive theater, starting new things and “positive outcomes for people.”
“I don’t know how to say it in the right way, but if I can help contribute to people uplifting themselves, I get a lot of joy and satisfaction,” he said. “So it was in that last piece that when the idea of a pro soccer team in New Mexico came along, I could see soccer out of all the sports around here was the one sport that really has the power to unite to bring people together.
“You can have 10 people, men and women, boys and girls, speaking 10 different languages, praying to 10 different gods, 10 different whatever, but when they watch this beautiful game of soccer, they’re communicating perfectly. So I felt this was something that could help bring people together. There’s a lot of power in that.”
What were you like as a kid?
“I was the youngest of four, so I was always trying to keep up and I was always getting beaten up. My grandfather had an old sports bar before they were called sports bars (at) the old Boston Garden called the Iron Horse. I used to bus tables when I was 13, and then I’d end up after I was all done (watching) the Celtics when Larry Bird was playing. I was not a great student. I actually didn’t have very much confidence at all in school, and that was something that I wanted to change. I think sport was a platform that let me do that. Football was really the first thing that I was able to do … by just really putting 100 percent in and feeling like I was just going to outwork everyone and then having some success.”
Do you have any hidden talents?
“I think I’m a generalist. I’m a horrible singer, but I’m not beyond trying to sing a tune in the shower. I’m a horrible dancer, but I’m not afraid to get on the dance floor. I love music. I think I really gravitate toward things that move me emotionally. Music, soccer has that ability.”
What kind of music?
“My Morning Jacket is my favorite band. They’re not that great on the radio, but when you go to a live show, you feel the power and the depth. I grew up loving Pink Floyd and the intricacy of the notes. I think if there’s a perfect album, it’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon.’ I don’t think there’s a single note on there that’s misplaced.”
Lots of athletes and sports fans have superstitions. Do you?
“I have one superstition where every time I get on a plane, I knock on the hull twice before I step on. I get a little nervous when I don’t. Once, I actually said, ‘I’m going to knock this time for all the times I don’t knock.’ It feels good (but then I think) ‘Is that just aluminum? It doesn’t feel very solid.’ If I have a lucky number, it’s 47. My football number was 47, and Project 47 played into that. But I feel like I earned that lucky number. It’s always a reminder that it took me three years of practicing before I got a number and got on the (football) field.”
How did it feel like to leave your career behind and jump into owning a soccer team?
“There’s a risk when you really try to push yourself as hard as you can, and the risk is that if you really, really dig down, if you really, really put everything you have into it and then it doesn’t work, then you have that sense of failure that you weren’t good enough. I felt that way when I played football. It was everything I had and sometimes it was enough, and sometimes it wasn’t. I had to be self-effacing about that. And while we had a lot of success in our Thornburg community … outside of 300 people in New Mexico, few people knew about us. So, this is really the first time I’ve ever stepped out and done something that’s so public, which also means there’s the risk of failing, which would also be very public. I had to think whether I wanted to take that on at the age of 50, especially since I’ve had a lot of success. What if I fail now? Does that mean everything I did was lucky up until now? Does it take away from other things?”
So how do you deal with that?
“I live in denial (laughing.) It’s just life. I think I just got to the point that I’m OK with failing. I’m OK that if New Mexico United … as long as the effort was there, as long as we set a mission that was not just about soccer but was about something deeper and we stuck to that and did it with integrity and honest effort, then I was good with that.”
Are you having fun?
“Oh, my God, yes. I’ve done some really interesting things, I think, but this is the first time in my life that I believe I’m really, truly doing something bigger than myself. This is something I really want to do for the rest of my life. That’s how I feel about it. I don’t think that’s going to change.”
POSITIONS: Owner and CEO of New Mexico United, since the team started on Jan. 4, 2018; Thornburg Investment Management, partner, 2003-2015, Meow Wolf, strategic adviser and investor; served on the board of Rio Grande School for eight years, including board chair.