A bit more than five years ago, Eddie Nuñez walked through the Albuquerque International Sunport on his way to interview for the athletic director’s job at the University of New Mexico.
He said he noticed the lack of UNM athletics’ signage throughout the airport. Since then he’s wanted to change that.
That’s no longer the case. Lobo sports and UNM signage will now be prominent at Sunport, and UNM gear will be sold at the retail stores that passengers walk by on their way to their departure gates or toward luggage pick-up. UNM and the Sunport, along with Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller announced on Monday a joint, non-monetary partnership. The Sunport will also have advertising at UNM sporting events, such as football games at University Stadium and men’s and women’s basketball games at the Pit.
Nuñez, his staff and coaches from UNM sports teams were at a formal announcement at the Sunport on Monday morning.
“To have that kind of presence when they get here and know this is Lobo Country — they’re going to see UNM throughout the airport — I’m excited,” Nuñez said. “It’s going to help in recruiting. It’s going to help enrollment. It’s going to help retention.”
The Sunport will be known as “the official travel partner” of UNM Athletics, according to the agreement.
Keller, who referred to the deal as “decades in the making,” introduced each speaker, including Nuñez, UNM president Garnett Stokes and Richard McCurley, the Sunport’s director of aviation.
Keller, moments after posing for a photo with Lobo Louie, said UNM’s prominence at the airport is something that should’ve been done “a long, long time ago.”
“What it is, it’s about, you gotta coordinate all the trademarks, you gotta get all those sort of legal permissions and all that, and we have a nice in-kind setup,” Keller explained. “We get some nice advertising, too, in different Lobo travel publications and so forth. Once we got the lawyers together, it was fine.”
Keller said he met with Nuñez earlier this year to set a deadline to have an agreement done by the end of the summer and the staff from the Sunport and UNM Athletics made it work.
Before, Keller said some people would “casually” mention to him the lack of a Lobo presence at the airport.
“There was a kiosk up front and a lot of people would sometimes say it was just small and that presence was not nearly as big as the Lobos are in Albuquerque,” he said. “One time I wanted to get some Lobo apparel on my way out of town because I was going to wear it to a conference to show off New Mexico, and I couldn’t find a single Lobo apparel at the airport.”
As people leave the Sunport and on their way to their departure gates, they’ll be “met with a series of graphics and video content about the Lobos,” McCurley said. Sometimes the video will feature upcoming UNM sporting events, Nuñez said.
“In exchange, the Sunport will now have an increased presence at Lobo football games, men’s and women’s basketball games and on the Go Lobos website (golobos.com),” McCurley said. “In closing, I’d like to say today and every day: Everyone’s a Lobo. And, 1-2-3, Go Lobos!”
Stokes said Monday was a day worth waiting for because “we’re going to turn this airport into Loboland.”
“This sends messages to everyone who comes through here that in fact UNM is a huge part of this community,” she said. “This community has loved the Lobos, sometimes more than others, but they have loved the Lobos. Having us represented here, the things we represent, being so central to the city and the gateway to the state of New Mexico, I think it’s something to really celebrate.”