University of New Mexico athletic director Paul Krebs said that part of the school’s upcoming bid to host a future men’s basketball NCAA Tournament and other events will be sweetened by plans for a new entertainment development on the west side of the Lobo football stadium.
In December, UNM regents gave preliminary approval.
The private development is set for one acre in the far northwest corner of the seven-acre parking lot at University Stadium on Avenida Cesar Chavez and University SE.
“I’m hoping this commercial development that Steve Chavez and Paul Silverman (are doing) will enhance our bid,” Krebs said. “I think it creates some activity for fans between sessions, when people are coming in and out and milling around between sessions. The NCAA clears the house between sessions, and you need somewhere to go instead of just getting in your car and driving somewhere.”
The project has yet been named, but Chavez said, internally, the group is calling it “Project Game Changer.” The name that has been publicly used is the “UNM Sports Entertainment District.”
Chavez said it will be a 50,000 square-foot restaurant, bar and retail development plan.
It will include Urlacher’s Sports Bar & Grill named after former UNM and NFL great Brian Urlacher – a local microbrewery, and a WisePies Pizza & Salad.
“We are also looking to add a New Mexican restaurant, barbeque restaurant, sandwich shop, gelato retailer and coffee shop,” Chavez told the Journal .
“To expand on the outdoor entertainment aspect of this project, it will feature an impressive stage for concerts, large projection screens and outdoor seating with fire pits to provide an additional area for the community to enjoy the beautiful New Mexico weather.”
Chavez, co-owner of WisePies, which the Pit is named after, said “Historically, there has been a need to grow entertainment offerings for local residents where they can come together in a fun and safe environment. Through my travels, I have experienced the excitement of many sports entertainment districts, and I feel the people of New Mexico deserve to have a place they can call their own. It seems natural to centralize this new development among the existing sports venues and surrounding college community.”
He said his the project will cost around $25 million and his group hopes to have it open prior to the 2017-18 basketball season.
He said the inclusion of a hotel is currently in negotiations and will be an upscale specialty brand not currently in the market.
“The hope of having such a high-profile project is not only to attract events like NCAA tournaments, but to support the needs for professional development, educational conferences, UNM Health Services, player recruitment, new and existing festivals, student development as well as surrounding projects like Innovate Albuquerque,” Chavez said. “This entertainment district will be the cornerstone of the innovative growth we foresee in Albuquerque.”