UNIVERSITY & CESAR CHAVEZ SE--Somehow I wasn't expecting the Professional Bull Riders' Ty Murray to end up giving his name to The Pit. But the official new name for UNM's University Arena will be "Ty Murray's PBR PIT
." Apparently the bull riding event last weekend made so much money that the bull rider was convinced to opt for outright naming rights.
This is not the first university basketball facility to sell its rights. In 1997 San Diego State sold the naming rights
to its $32,000,000 arena to Cox Communications for $400,000/year for 10 years. That contract has run out and now, as of only two weeks ago, the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians which operate a casino 22 miles from the arena are paying $690,000/year in a 10 year agreement. SDSU's Cox Arena is now the Viejas Arena.
Only 91 Years
UNM's asking price of $700,000 did not seem unreasonable to Ty Murray. After all, The Pit will have cost $64,000,000 once the upgrades are completed. UNM's Athletic Director Paul Krebs put it this way, "What this means is that after only ninety-one and one half years the naming rights will have paid for the whole facility!"
As to whether this would detract from the history and cache of what used to be called The Pit, one of America's top 20 sports venues, Ty Murray wants all Lobo fans to just relax. "The new name will definitely NOT be a distraction. For one thing "Ty Murray's" will be in black and in script...like handwriting. The "PBR" will be black and italicized. The word "PIT" will continue to be in big white slightly-tilted block letters just like always."
Asked what other changes are envisioned at Ty Murray's PBR PIT, the two seemed equally excited to talk about them. "First of all,"
said Krebs, "we are renaming the sections around the arena. Instead of having the same old 'A, B, C, & D' sections we are going to name them after breeds of cattle...such as Angus, Brangus, Charolais, and Dwarf Lulu."
The luxury seating area in the mezzanine is also in for a big redo. "We have a real surprise up there,"
added Murray, "The prime seating will be a combination of leather rockers with Cadillac dashboads, stationary horseheads with attached saddles, and those mechanical bull machines made so famous in the movie Urban Cowboy. We've got something for everybody. This way Ty Murray's PBR PIT will really get rocking!"
Ramp Stays the Same, Different Floor
Much of the arena will stay the same. Take the ramp, for instance. Instead of enlarging it to accommodate the dump trucks necessary to cover the floor with three feet of dirt, the PBR is investing in used mining equipment...specifically a rubber-tired underground ore train that can be used to run lots of dirt into the arena for rodeo events.
It's a different story for the basketball floor, however. It seems the weight of all that dirt and machinery means that the wooden floor will have to be replaced with a concrete pad. "Not to worry...we have found a really nice vinyl tile basketball setup that will do just fine."
UNM did have to compromise on scheduling: the Pro Bull Riders need the arena for the entire month of March. Krebs looked at me like he knew this was something of a problem. "Well...how often do the men make it to the post-season?"
he asked. "As for the women, they can play in Rio Rancho. What's the dif?"
Who Really Pays the Bill
I asked the two of them why anyone would want to pay extra for luxury seating when the Arena Formerly Known As The Pit was one of the truly democratic draws in New Mexico. If you wanted to see what New Mexico looked like, you came to a Lobo game. But their answer made sense.
"First of all you have to realize what kind of people sit in luxury boxes. They are business owners and big executives. Everything for them is tax deductible if they are with business associates...you know, people of their own kind! The luxury box is tax deductible. Their Lobodogs are tax deductible. Their parking space is tax deductible. Their Hummer is tax deductible. Hell, even the naming rights are tax deductible!"
I knew better than to ask who was really paying for all of this.
Oh...one more thing. Tomorrow is April Fools' Day. This story may appear to be made up and a day early, but only part of it. The fools part...well, the fools are real.