Get ready for a new name, Lobo basketball fans.
Same goes for you, UNM football fanatics.
Dreamstyle Remodeling has made a 10-year, $10 million commitment to University of New Mexico in a deal that includes naming rights to University of New Mexico’s football stadium and the Pit. CEO Larry Chavez presented officials with the first check — for $1 million — during the deal’s announcement Wednesday at Dreamstyle Remodeling’s Albuquerque headquarters.
Chavez, a UNM graduate raised in Albuquerque, said he attended the first games ever played at the stadium and the Pit, and his first job was selling sodas at the football stadium. As his company — founded in 1989 with what he said was wife Joyce Hitchner’s $500 limit credit card — began thriving several years ago, Chavez started contemplating the possibility of a naming rights deal.
And yet he said the reality of Dreamstyle Arena and Dreamstyle Stadium is a little hard to fathom.
“I remember like yesterday walking the stands selling sodas. I don’t think I ever dreamt that it would get to this stage. … It’s very special,” he said in a Journal interview. “It’s very special to our company — the people in our company who have made this happen.”
The $10 million includes $9 million for athletics, part of a contract forged with Lobo Sports Properties, a private entity to which UNM in 2013 licensed its multimedia and sponsorship rights. That company will get approximately $1 million of the Dreamstyle money, according to UNM Athletic Director Paul Krebs. (Read more here.)
Chavez is pledging up to $1 million to support other UNM entities, including initial recipients UNM Children’s Hospital, Anderson School of Management and Popejoy Hall. Chavez said that’s through a separate agreement with the University of New Mexico Foundation.
“What he has done is an example of dreaming big and dreaming in style and achieving those dreams,” UNM Acting President Chaouki Abdallah said at Wednesday’s news conference. “He’s now trying to impact the next generation of dreams to make UNM and Albuquerque as great as it can be.”
Chavez, a lifelong Lobo fan, led the recent $250,000 effort to remodel the Lobo football team offices, contributing $150,000 in materials and labor, while other private donors paid the rest.
He said that’s how conversations began with UNM officials about naming rights to the football stadium. That eventually grew into a discussion about possibly getting the Pit naming rights too. Those were already under contract to WisePies, and Chavez said he did not make UNM a pitch to buy both for $9 million. Instead, a UNM Foundation employee presented that deal to him about a month ago, he said.
“We want to be clear that we did not step in and try to interfere with the existing (deal),” he said. “We wouldn’t do that.”
Dreamstyle Remodeling becomes the first naming rights sponsor for University Stadium, but its name will replace the WisePies moniker outside the Pit. WisePies secured the naming rights in 2014 in a deal of 10 annual installments totaling $5 million. UNM said last week it asked WisePies to relinquish the naming rights to make way for a better agreement that would include multiple facilities. WisePies agreed, and their deal will terminate after 2½ years and three payments totaling $800,000.
Some fans greeted the WisePies agreement with skepticism, in part because they resented a corporate name on the arena but also because WisePies had to pay just $200,000 for the first two years.
Larry Chavez, who said he is no relation to current WisePies owner Steve Chavez, said he does not fear backlash.
“Regardless of what may have gone on in the past, we’re quite confident we’ll be able to help the university and quite confident in our resources,” he said.
Dreamstyle Remodeling sells and installs a variety of name-brand home improvement products like Renewal by Andersen windows. It now operates in five states and has almost 500 employees. Chavez said it had $80 million in revenues in 2016 and forecasts $110 million this year.
The Springer, N.M.-born entrepreneur built the company after a previous business failure, one that nearly prompted him to file for bankruptcy in the late 1980s. But he told the Journal in a 2014 interview that his wife, Hitchner, wouldn’t sign onto the documents. Together they began building the company now known as Dreamstyle.
“My home was foreclosed and my car was repossessed,” Chavez told the Journal this week of his 1980s tumult. “I now own five homes, two of them temporary investments and I own 55 vehicles in the company.”
Chavez said his design team was already working on the new design for “Dreamstyle Stadium” and “Dreamstyle Arena” signs and expected to have them up in the next couple of months. He said at Wednesday’s event that he would not follow WisePies lead and rename the arena “Dreamstyle Arena aka the Pit.”
“We don’t like that (AKA part of the name), and I don’t think the community likes that. The official name is Dreamstyle Arena. We, like everybody else, love the nickname of the Pit and we’ll be taking that into consideration and doing some research. And if the community would like for the words ‘the Pit” next to Dreamstyle Arena, we’ll do that,” he said.