The University of New Mexico announced Wednesday evening that it will no longer host the Gathering of Nations, an annual event for more than three decades at the UNM Pit.
This opens up the possibility that the nationally known event, which attracts thousands of people and millions of dollars, could leave the city for another locale.
But Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry said Wednesday night that he does not expect that to happen and “will do everything within my power as mayor to ensure that the Gathering of Nations stays in Albuquerque.”
Berry said he has talked with Derek Mathews and his family, who organize the Gathering of Nations, “and let them know in no uncertain terms how important this event is to the city of Albuquerque and how much I, as mayor, appreciate it, and how much the city appreciates it,” he said.
“I have every reason to believe we will find a way to keep this great event here in our city, and at this point I don’t have any information they are leaving.”
Berry said he was trying to set up a meeting with members of the Mathews family on Thursday to talk about local venues for the Gathering of Nations.
UNM Executive Vice President David Harris sent a letter to Mathews notifying him of the university’s decision to end its agreement, according to a UNM news release. The letter cites terms of the agreement that allow for cancellation with 120-day notice prior to the event. The next Gathering is set for April 24 to May 1, 2017.
Mathews could not be reached for comment.
“The decision is both financial and operational,” UNM said in a followup statement. “At a time when the University is facing tough budgetary constraints, hosting the powwow had become prohibitively costly to our athletic department, as well as risk services, police and security, and other university operations.”
Harris also noted in the news release that it was his understanding that “other venues, such as Expo New Mexico, have expressed an interest in hosting future events, and we offer our support in helping make the transition to a new site.”
Dan Mourning, general manager of Expo New Mexico, confirmed Wednesday that he has been in contact with representatives of the Gathering of Nations.
“I have had conversations with them and they toured our facility prior to this year’s event,” he said. “They seemed very interested in what we have to offer and we plan on speaking with them again in the very near future. This is the perfect place for them to take their event to the next level, and the time of the year they hold the event is perfect for us.”
Mourning said it was paramount to do everything possible to make sure the Gathering of Nations does not leave Albuquerque.
“This event is too important to lose,” he said.
The event generates more than $20 million in the local economy, based on an analysis from the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce, which does marketing for the event, said James Korenchen of James Korenchen Public Relations.
The 33rd annual Gathering of Nations, which was held this past weekend, attracted about 3,000 dancers from more than 700 tribes around the United States, Canada and Mexico.
The 15,000 seat basketball arena was filled to capacity for both days, thousands of people from 122 countries tuned in to watch events via live Internet streaming, and millions more followed on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, according to Paul Gowder, chief executive officer of Powwows.com, which broadcast the event live.