ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The opening of WisePies Pizza’s Nob Hill location caused quite the scene.
Offers of free pizza and an appearance from the University of New Mexico head men’s basketball coach, Craig Neal, didn’t hurt. Neal was there to add his own pizza creation, “The Noodles”, to the menu.
“My pizza’s ground beef, pepperoni, extra marinara sauce and banana peppers,” Neal said.
There’s no doubt the close relationship with UNM athletics has been a big boom for the Albuquerque-based pizza startup, founded just last year. The deal announced in December to put WisePies’ name on one of the state’s most famous buildings, The Pit, caught many off guard.
Although WisePies only had three locations open when the $5 million naming deal was announced, the company made it clear it planned to grow quickly. In a news release, the company forecast opening more than 20 new restaurants by the end of 2015.
But despite that, Monday’s grand opening is the first new location of 2015 since the naming deal was announced.
“Sometimes it takes a little time to get the ball rolling and the ball is starting to roll now,” said Michael Baird, co-CEO of WisePies.
Baird says the company has a firm deal in place for a new location at Academy and Wyoming and is moving forward with expansion plans in Las Vegas and Phoenix. He says the current locations have proved successful as well.
“They’ve been solid performers,” Baird said. “We’ve been happy with the results so far.”
UNM is banking on WisePies’ growth plan panning out. Although the 10-year naming agreement would pay the school $5 million overall, it’s back-loaded so that WisePies only has to pony up $100,000 a year for the first two years of the agreement. The annual bill jumps to $600,000 after that.
There’s also little penalty for the company to back out of the deal. It would only be on the hook for the cost of removing its name from The Pit, estimated at $50,000.
UNM athletics says it has no reason to worry at this point.
“I think they’ll be fine,” Neal said. “They’re going to get it done at a high level.”
Right now, a temporary banner is still up outside The Pit with the WisePies’ name, although an athletics spokesperson says the school is pushing to have permanent versions in place before the start of next season.