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UNM cuts new sports concessions deal

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When the University of New Mexico announced earlier this month that it had picked a new athletics dining and hospitality contractor, it came as a surprise to Patrick Queeney.

The local general manager for Spectra, Queeney said he didn’t know the contract was in play and that his company – which oversees concessions at Isotopes Park, Santa Ana Star Center and Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta – would have submitted a bid if it could have.

“Absolutely,” he said.

In fact, nobody submitted a bid for the eight-year athletics concession contract, because UNM never issued a request for proposals specific to sports venue dining. Instead, it worked out a deal with Levy Restaurants of Chicago under the auspices of the campuswide food service contract it already had in place with Levy’s sister company Chartwells and their shared parent company, Compass Group.

The new Levy deal marked a change for UNM. Its last athletics concessions contract was inked with Sodexo eight years ago as the result of a specialized RFP for the work, according to Deputy Athletic Director Brad Hutchins. This time, however, the athletics department decided that instead of putting the contract out to bid that it would use a provision in the campuswide contract that allowed it to negotiate with the vendor for expansion into sports facilities.

Queeney said Spectra had expected there would be a separate RFP and had communicated its interest to UNM representatives through the years.

“We’ve been on this, but they didn’t send out an (athletics-specific) RFP,” he said.

The campuswide request for proposals generated three bids when it was released in 2015 – Aramark, Compass Group and Sodexo.

Hutchins said negotiating with Compass’ Levy as part of a larger contract was one possible way to get a better deal. Had the process not worked out well, he said the athletics job might have gone out to bid separately. But he expressed confidence in the resulting agreement.

“I think we’re very happy with our arrangement with Levy,” he said.

The Journal has sought copies of the contract and the original campuswide food service RFP through the Inspection of Public Records Act. Both requests are pending.

According to UNM’s announcement of its new partnership, Compass’ Levy “will handle premium dining, concessions and catering operations across the university’s athletic venues” beginning July 1, replacing Sodexo. That includes WisePies Arena, aka the Pit, and University Stadium.

Levy also will oversee sales of beer during football games at the stadium, a first for UNM.

Levy will pay UNM a percentage of sales, Hutchins said. The company will also buy a half-suite at WisePies Arena ($22,500 annually) and give UNM a $100,000 gift-in-kind each year of the agreement. He said UNM also received a $750,000 signing bonus.

Hutchins acknowledged that UNM handled the contract differently than it did eight years ago, which was the first time it outsourced athletics concessions, but disagreed that it might have eliminated potential partners with more specialization in athletics concessions.

Queeney described it as “odd” that Spectra was not made aware of the process given its large presence in the market.

“The way things have happened through the years, usually it goes to RFP to the major companies (and) we are given the opportunity (to bid),” said Queeney, who noted that Spectra has contracts at other college sports facilities, including those at Colorado State University and Texas Tech.

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