Much can be said about the timing of University of New Mexico Athletics’ announcement on Thursday that construction is coming soon for a new state-of-the-art performance center for all 18 Lobo programs, a project that New Mexico Mutual spearheaded with a $1 million lead gift.
UNM Athletics believes it has built some momentum along with the revelation of the New Mexico Mutual Champions Training Center, an estimated 15,000 square-foot facility that will be located inside University Stadium beyond the south end zone.
UNM hired a new basketball coach, Richard Pitino, the women’s basketball team won the Mountain West Conference regular-season title at the Pit, and the Lobo football team added a high-profile transfer quarterback, Terry Wilson, on Tuesday as some of the recent highlights.
“It’s incredible timing because University of New Mexico Athletics is on a roll right now,” said Norm Becker, the president and CEO of the local workers’ compensation insurer. He was on hand for a press conference at the stadium. “There has been some really good news coming out, it almost seems on a daily basis.”
Becker said he went into agreement with Lobo Club executive director Jalen Dominguez about four years ago for the lead gift. The discussions, meetings and collaborations, and guidance of UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez, helped evolve plans for the training facility that will replace the temporary tented structure located next to the Estes Tennis Center and Maloof Administration Building.
The Lobos recently secured the necessary funds, about $3 million, for the project, Nuñez said. Construction could take place at or near the end of the upcoming football season and take roughly 10 months for completion, he said.
Nuñez described the training center as a “game changer” for UNM Athletics and he was proud that the funds raised came amid a challenging climate during the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s a testament to the people seeing the vision of what we’re trying to do at UNM Athletics,” Nuñez said. “During this tough time, they still understand what we’re trying to do is for the betterment of all our athletes. Not just one sport. This is all our student athletes. It really helps us address a major need, which is our Title IX deficiencies.”
Construction designs aren’t final, and there are no renderings for the facility yet.
UNM football coach Danny Gonzales suggested that the new facility will be an extension of the Tow Diehm Facility. Gonzales and his staff also call University Stadium, “The Den,” and the performance center could add to that nickname. Gonzales, who was told about the project during his hiring process in December of 2019, said the new facility is expected to have large garage type doors that will open toward the field, and the players could run out from that on game day.
There also could be more fan seating on top of the performance center as part of the construction, he suggested.