ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Forget the previously released renderings of University of New Mexico’s new sports entertainment district — it turns out the project is about to double in size.
The group selected by UNM to build the sports entertainment district in part of the parking lot adjacent to the stadium recently completed a study that indicated their original plan was too small. Previously conceived as a 25,000-square-foot project with four to five tenants, the consultant recommended something closer to between 50,000 and 55,000 square feet with space for an estimated 10 tenants and a larger plaza, said Paul Silverman of 54 Development LLC, the team spearheading the project.
The size increase will help ensure the development’s viability, creating a larger magnet to attract people on the days and nights without Lobos or Isotopes games, Silverman said. He called it achieving the necessary “retail gravity.”
“The risk in this deal was really under-building it — building something that just didn’t have enough gravity to get us where we needed to be,” he said.
The present estimated price tag for the project is $25 million, which the developer covers. The group is leasing the land from UNM in an agreement approved by the Board of Regents in December.
Tom Neale, UNM’s director of real estate, said the deal was structured to account for possible adjustments in the project’s scope and called 54 Development’s intention to super-size welcome news. While the developer had originally planned to use one acre, Neale said the university’s original request for proposals had offered up two acres.
“We’re really excited they’re coming back with a much larger project,” Neale said. “We think it furthers our goals of establishing this district.”
He added that the new site plan must still get approved by Lobo Development and the regents.
Silverman said the development group, which also includes Steve Chavez of WisePies Pizza & Salad, will start reworking the design this week with Dekker Perich Sabatini. The new plan will also account for a storm drain along Avenida Cesar Chavez that the team discovered while further inspecting the site.
He expects to have the new plan by summer. The project could be open as early as fall of 2017.
The development will still include a Brian Urlacher sports bar and a WisePies. Chavez recently told the Journal that the tenant mix could also include the likes of a New Mexican food restaurant, a barbecue joint, sandwich shop, gelato shop and coffee shop.
Though the new plan is not yet set, the 2 acres UNM has made available for this project now contain about 220 of the parking lot’s 860 total existing spaces. But Neale noted that the school has 10 acres of undeveloped land south of WisePies Arena — the Pit — to help offset any parking losses.