A $3 million improvement to the Lobo baseball stadium won unanimous approval from a University of New Mexico regents committee on Monday.
The proposal will be considered by the full board for final approval next week.
The renovation would rehabilitate the baseball team’s aging practice field by replacing the field, building locker rooms and adding nearly 900 permanent seats to give the Lobos their own home field for games.
Currently, the team plays its home games at Isotopes Park, where practice time is limited, scheduling around the professional team is difficult and thousands of empty seats dull the Lobo home field advantage, according to athletics officials.
Regents said they support the first phase of the baseball stadium because it’s already paid in full. A condition of the early approval is that no academic dollars support the development.
A majority of the funding would come from a $2 million state appropriation to the baseball field last year at the request of former Gov. Bill Richardson. The rest is comprised of donations to the baseball program drummed up by head baseball coach Ray Birmingham.
“As it relates to Lobo Field, we have no running water over there, we have no locker rooms,” athletic director Paul Krebs said. “The field is decaying.”
The Lobo baseball team isn’t the only one to gain, Birmingham said. The improved stadium would offer new opportunity as a summer facility for high school games, club teams and prominent tournaments.
“I think this is a very positive thing for our state, for our community and for the university,” Birmingham said. “I hope everybody chips in and helps. I’ll even help build the field myself.”
The improved stadium hosting non-university games would also mean new revenues for UNM, Krebs said. The university currently pays the Isotopes about $50,000 a year to play on the city-owned field.