ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – When the University of New Mexico decided to spend a $1.7 million 50 years ago to dig a pit and put an arena in, it probably didn’t know they were building a New Mexico landmark. Fifty years later it may be the most famous place in Albuquerque, and Wednesday night was the birthday party.
Students and professors KRQE New 13 spoke with said The Pit means much more to New Mexicans than your average sports arena.
“When you say I’m going to The Pit, everyone knows where that is,” said Hunter Watson, a UNM student.
The Pit is a New Mexico icon.
“I think it’s one of the loudest arenas I think in this country,” said Lindsey Sanborn, a UNM student.
“There’s been a lot of memories that’s been filled in that arena,” said Elias Manriquez, a UNM student.
Five decades of memories to be exact, from conference titles to NCAA championships. The Pit opened in December of 1966, and cost $1.7 million to build.
“Fifty years, that’s a landmark, that’s a milestone,” said Manriquez.
Throughout the years, The Pit has received $66 million in renovations. But Lobo basketball fans said the one thing that hasn’t changed since the day The Pit opened its doors is the energy during game days.
“The Pit is nationally known as a fearsome place for visiting teams to play,” said Chris Buckholz, a professor at UNM.
An iconic sports venue, but students said The Pit is more than just an arena to them.
“Feel like you have a family, and feel like you’re part of a club and part of a team,” said Sanborn.
And a big part of the lives of many New Mexicans — outside of being the home of Lobo basketball.
“One of my favorite memories is going to a state basketball game there. My high school lost, but it was still a great experience to go and watch my high school basketball team play there,” said Watson.
At one point The Pit had more than 18,000 seats. Seats were then decreased to a little more than 15,000 to make room for luxury suites.
Wednesday night, the Lobos played Abilene Christian, which was also the first team the Lobos played at The Pit 50 years ago. Former players will also be a part of the birthday celebration. The first 7,500 fans will get rally towels.