ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The UNM Athletic Department announced Monday that the University Arena will now be called WisePies Arena. The business has agreed to give $5 million over 10 years to support the UNM Athletics Department through the newly established WisePies Fund.
Speaking at a news conference Monday afternoon, UNM Athletic Director Paul Krebs said, “The arena, effectively immediately, as you can see, is now known as WisePies Arena.”
The gift is a landmark contribution. “It’s the largest cash gift in the history of the University of New Mexico athletics. It’s the sixth largest gift in the history of the university,” Krebs said.
The university had been looking to rename the stadium for a while to earn money. The idea to sell the naming rights worked at other college arenas, but UNM had a hard time finding a company that would pay a large amount to put its name on The Pit. Now the company that specializes in personal size gourmet pizzas, has the naming rights.
WisePies Pizza & Salad is owned by New Mexico native Steven Chavez and long-time New Mexico resident Michael Baird.
“With our contribution to the University of New Mexico, it is unquestionable that we are the real deal,” Chavez said in a news release.
“It shows a local business wants to step up and help the community,” Brent Newcomer told News 13. He is a shift leader at a local WisePies location. The chain opened its first location in January and currently has three locations in the Metro but plans to add 20 more.
Reaction among UNM students that the Pit was becoming WisePies Arena wasn’t all favorable.
“No one is going to call it WisePies arena,” said Virginia Benitez-Jones, a sophomore communications major.
“That’s the name of the Pit now?” questioned Tim Richey, a sophomore majoring in electrical engineering. “That’s horrible. Makes no sense whatsoever,” he said.
Social media reaction also generated strong sentiments. “Good job ruining possibly the best named arena in all of college basketball,” wrote a Lobos fan on Twitter.
The Pit is one of college basketball’s most famous and recognizable buildings and has been known by that name for more than 47 years. It’s a place fans are proud of, especially after it was redone inside and out four years ago, a project that came with a cost $60 million. The university is hoping to help pay it off with the money received from selling the arena’s naming rights.
UNM had been shopping the naming rights for The Pit to corporations and wealthy alumni for the last four years.
“It’s resulted in a big win for UNM and for New Mexico,” said Robert Frank, UNM’s president.
The Pit naming rights deal is the fourth basketball arena naming deal for a Mountain West Conference team.
Boise State is playing in Taco Bell Arena as part of a $4 million deal. The Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians is paying out $6 million over 10 years so that San Diego State calls its basketball home Viejas Arena. Fresno State has the mother of all naming rights deals right now, raking in a total of $40 million by the time its 20 year deal is over with.
Although UNM’s deal is for $5 million over the next decade, the deal is a bit back-loaded. WisePies only pays $100,000 a year for the first two years of the deal before upping that to $600,000 a year the final eight years. WisePies will have the right of first refusal to any future naming deal.
As of now, WisePies will not sell its food at the Pit. That’s something Krebs says the school and the company are still working on.