Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal
The University of New Mexico says the $5 million naming-rights deal to adorn its beloved basketball Pit with “WisePies Arena” signs will help pay for 2010 renovations, but it’s giving a lot of Albuquerque residents heartburn.
A Journal flash poll conducted late last week found that 48 percent of the Albuquerque-area adults surveyed think the deal is a “clear miss” for UNM.
Some recognized UNM’s need to help pay down the $60 million debt it took on to redevelop the nationally recognized basketball arena: 27 percent opted for the survey’s “cheesy but necessary” response.
But just 13 percent called the WisePies Arena deal “a game-winning shot.”
Twelve percent said they were up in the air over the naming rights deal.
“I think a lot of people hold the University Arena and the name ‘the Pit’ in reverence,” said Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc.
“Old-time Lobo fans, I think, are squirming a little over the WisePies name,” he said. “It’s not a brand that people recognize. Maybe it will be (recognized) over time, but I think this issue has some people scratching their heads.”
Younger New Mexicans, ages 18 to 34, were most likely to voice opposition to the Pit’s new official name. Fifty-six percent said the WisePies deal was the equivalent of an air ball.
Men also were more likely to frown on the name change, with 51 percent calling WisePies Arena a labeling miss. Forty-five percent of women voiced opposition.
Those with more time on the clock – Albuquerque-area adults 34 to 49 – were the most likely to support the naming-rights deal, but they still were in the minority. Eighteen percent of them said the change was a good move for UNM, compared with 13 percent of the total sample who liked the new name.
UNM last week announced it would rename University Arena – commonly known in New Mexico as the Pit – after local company, WisePies Pizza & Salad, agreed to give UNM athletics a $5 million cash gift over the next 10 years.
UNM had the naming rights on the market for several years. Ultimately, WisePies owners agreed to give UNM $100,000 in 2014 and again at the end of 2015 to establish the stadium naming rights. The company will then give UNM $600,000 each year from 2016 to 2023.
The gift to UNM athletics came as the university sports program has operated in the red over the past six years, with annual deficits ranging from $538 in 2009-10 to just over $1 million in 2011-12.
A WisePies spokeswoman said when the name change was announced that it is an effort to build the company’s brand while demonstrating its commitment to New Mexico.
WisePies, which opened for business earlier this year, has said it plans to open as many as 20 new franchise locations in 2015.
The Journal flash poll asked this question: “What do you think of the $5 million naming-rights deal to call University Arena, also known as the Pit, the WisePies Arena?” And these possible responses were offered by interviewers: “A game-winning shot. A clear miss. Cheesy but necessary.”
The Journal flash poll was conducted on Dec. 4 by Research & Polling Inc. and is based on a random sample of 438 Albuquerque metro area adults. The margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 4.7 percentage points.
Seventy-two percent of the interviews were conducted via landline telephones, using a recorded interactive voice response system. The remaining 28 percent of the interviews were conducted via cellphone, using professional telephone interviewers.