Larry Chavez attended the very first game at University Stadium on Sept. 17, 1960. The next couple of years, he sold soft drinks in the stands.
More than a half-century later, his love for the University of New Mexico and UNM football flows unabated.
“We’re repaying,” Chavez, a UNM graduate and president of Dreamstyle Remodeling, a highly successful Albuquerque business, said in a phone interview. “If I hadn’t gone to UNM, I might not be sitting here.”
Chavez has donated $100,000 to the project. Rick Galles, president and CEO of Albuquerque’s Galles Motor Co., has contributed an unspecified amount. Chavez is soliciting donations for the rest.
He doesn’t know, Chavez said, who initially put him in touch with UNM coach Bob Davie. But once the two met and discussed the possibility of enhancing the 21-year-old, rather generic-looking offices, no arm-twisting was required.
“My son (Larry Jr., a company vice president) and I have Zia Level seats,” Chavez said. “Every game, we turn and say to each other, ‘This team deserves more support.’
“They’ve had progress on the field, (but) the community hasn’t supported it in the way that we feel they should. So we’re hoping to prime the pump and get people in this community behind this football program.”
Arm-twisting, Davie said, absolutely is not his style in such matters.
“I’ve never been one, from the first day I came here, just to go out and put people on the spot and ask people to give,” he said after Tuesday’s practice at the stadium.
“I’ve chosen to just coach our team and hope people appreciate that and see that we’re making progress. That’s what’s most rewarding to me about this whole thing. I think people are taking notice, and I’m very appreciative.”
After seven consecutive losing seasons, the Lobos went 7-6 and played in the New Mexico Bowl last season.
Davie cited Chavez, Galles and the late Albuquerque attorney Turner Branch as paramount among those who have contributed to his program without being asked.
Chavez would add to that list Albuquerque architect Rick Bennett and Kilmer and Kilmer, an Albuquerque branding and graphic design firm. Both are contributing to the football office project without compensation, Chavez said.
The project already is under way, he said, with some modifications in the coaches’ offices and meeting rooms to improve functionality.
“We’re doing some structural work — removing some walls, putting some new walls in, changing some of the overall facilities just from a functional standpoint,” he said. “There are going to be $50,000 worth of new chairs for the meeting rooms and so forth. They’ve worn the chairs out. They’ve worn out the carpet.
“It’s where (the coaches) work … day and night for number of months, and continuously the rest of the year. It’s their home, so we want to make it modern and impressive and functional.”
But Chavez said the “wow factor” that visitors to the offices will see upon entry — see the accompanying illustrations — have yet to be initiated.
“We’re giving it a significant face-lift, starting with the lobby,” he said. “What we intend to do is (install) a lot of three-dimensional logos with a lot of three-dimensional motivational phrases. A complete new look in terms of colors.
“A new carpet, a lot of lighting. Lighting is really in nowadays, and we’ve researched a number of major programs around the country — Alabama, Ohio State, Tennessee, Stanford and so forth.”
A new color scheme will include “a little less red, and little more silver and gray and a little more black. Those are more contemporary colors now, but staying within the UNM theme.”
The target date for completion is sometime in November, he said.
Chavez’s love for UNM football actually predates that first game at University Stadium.
“Since I was old enough to know what football was, I’ve been a Lobo fan,” he said. “I remember riding the bus to Zimmerman Field in 1959.
“I’ve continued to be a fan of all the sports (at UNM), but, mainly football has always had my interest. For some reason, I’ve always liked football better than basketball and other things.”
Most Lobo fans will never set foot in the UNM football offices, but Chavez hopes the improvements will impress those who do — recruits included.
Chavez’s firm has expanded into several other cities, including Boise, Idaho — home of the Boise State Broncos, the nation’s most successful program outside the “Power Five” conferences.
“You can’t go 100 feet and not see something about the Broncos,” he said. “… We want to help (the UNM) program head in that direction and become a really important part of our community.”