Stevens: The Pit Renovations Will Polish the Lobos' Crown Jewel
Nov. 7, 2008
Cost: $1.4 million
First game: Dec. 1, 1966
Lobo men wins: 598 (80.6 percent)
Lobo women wins: 225 (81.7 percent) since 1995
Men's Attendance: 11,513,572
Men's 42-year average: 15,559
Women's Attendance: 1,981,682 since 1995
Women's average: 8,653 since 1995
Quick fact: A $60 million renovation of The Pit will begin in April of 2009
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
It is a facelift that would make Joan Rivers jealous. The University of New Mexico is adding a $60 million splash of high-tech fashion to one of the Lobos' greatest treasures: The Pit.
"Anybody who is a college sports fan knows the name and the magic of The Pit," said Paul Krebs, UNM's Vice President for Athletics, outlining the massive refurbishing details for one of the nation's more storied basketball arenas.
"I know when I was interviewing for this job, I didn't know a lot about the University of New Mexico, but, boy, you say the name Pit and I know exactly what you are talking about."
The Pit has hosted big names in all areas of big-time entertainment: Bobby Knight, Jethro Tull, Mick Jagger, The Eagles, Lute Olson, James Taylor, Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Scottie Pippen, Pete Sampras, Dennis Rodman, Michael Cooper and on and on.
The national reputation of The Pit might be highlighted by a 1983 Final Four dance by Jim Valvano after North Carolina State's miraculous, buzzer-beating win over Houston. But what makes The Pit special to all Lobos is the way the building rocks and roars when its Lobos storm down the ramp to battle their foes.
The Pit was rated as the loudest collegiate venue in the nation in 1999 by "Hoops across America" with a decibel level of 118, beating out Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium which hit the 116 mark.
The Pit also was named in 1999 by "Sports Illustrated" as the No. 13 sporting venue of the 20th century beating out legendary sporting sites such as Camden Yards (Baltimore), Notre Dame Stadium and the Rose Bowl.
Yep, The Pit is special, but The Pit also is showing a few wrinkles and the need for that major facelift. Not so much because the age of The Pit is keeping fans away, but simply because it's time.
Time to grow. Time to get better. Time to step into the 21st century.
The Pit was built in 1966 for an amazingly, economical price tag of $1.4 million. The turnstiles have clicked 11,513,572 times in those 42 years of men's basketball. The Lobo men have won at an 80.7 percent rate since 1966 and the women are at 81.7 percent from 1995 to 2007.
But there is no question The Pit has lost some of its splash and dash when compared to more-modern arenas across the country. The age of The Pit also keeps the NCAA from bringing first-round and second-round men's NCAA Tournament games to The Pit.
That probably won't be a problem when UNM is finished with the construction scheduled to start full scale in April of 2009. The Pit will be a high-tech fashion lure: for the NCAA, for the fans, for the all-important future UNM recruits.
The Pit will expand by 60,000-square feet. It will have 40 luxury suites and 300 club seats. It will have state-of-the-art locker room facilities, new scoreboards, an expanded concourse, new restrooms, expanded concessions, a high-rise look out front. You want the complete list and an illustration? Check out the link that runs with this story.
The Pit will be a runway fashion model that hasn't abandoned those country-girl values. The Pit will be plush, perky, modern and beautiful, but this is key: The Pit will still be The Pit.
It will be that sunken cauldron of emotion surrounding the hostile Bob King Court that the enemy has to reach by running down a steep ramp that takes them smack dab into the middle of all that Lobo love.
"We wanted to keep the character (of The Pit)," said Krebs.
At the bottom of all this new look, is really the same old look. Lobos going at BYU Cougars and Utah Utes and Wyoming Cowboys with thousands of fans looking down and cheering on their Lobos.
At the top, things are going to get really nice. UNM will add all the bells and whistles to make The Pit a model for other college's to copy and envy. It will be high-tech and glassy offering views of the Sandia Mountains to the East and seductive Southwest sunsets to the West.
"We wanted to make this the very best college basketball arena in the country," said Krebs.
The $60 million will take care of the glitter and the glamour of the new-look Pit. And that's an important part of any modern-day facelift.
But every Lobo knows the most important ingredient to making The Pit special is keeping something very old and time-tested.
"Our passionate fans are the ones who make the building," said Krebs.