The University of New Mexico announced that WisePies Pizza & Salad, a locally owned business, has agreed to give a $5 million cash gift over 10 years to support the UNM Athletics Department through the newly established WisePies Fund. This is the largest cash gift ever to UNM Athletics and the sixth-largest cash gift overall to the university. The WisePies Fund will be used to support The Pit debt service incurred from the 2009-10 renovations.
As part of the recognition for their generous support, beginning Dec. 1, 2014 University Arena will be named "WisePies Arena" (aka The Pit) for the duration of the gift. The company logo will appear on exterior signage of the arena as well as on Bob King Court and tickets. The recognition will also include an arena suite.
The University’s basketball arena was built in 1966 and was aptly dubbed “The Pit” due to its unique construction in a 37-foot hole on Albuquerque’s southeast mesa. In 2009, The Pit underwent a $60 million renovation updating the facility with the U.S. Bank club/suite level, endwall video boards and ribbon boards, expanded concourses, a new ticket office and Lobo Den Store. New locker rooms for both men’s and women’s squads, and the McKinnon Family Training Center have also been added to allow the Lobos to continue their commitment to excellence.
“From the time we first discussed the potential renovation of The Pit, we talked about the need for state and private support to make the renovation a reality,” said Paul Krebs, vice president for Athletics. “Specifically, we’ve talked about the need to find a naming rights partner for the building. The fact that WisePies is a local company and Steve Chavez, the company’s co-CEO, is a native New Mexican and successful, local businessman, makes this gift even more significant and special.”
WisePies Pizza & Salad is owned by New Mexico native, Steven B. Chavez and long-time New Mexico resident Michael Baird. WisePies Pizza & Salad opened its first store on Jan. 18, 2014, currently has three stores and is forecasting construction of more than 20 additional stores for 2015 in the Albuquerque metro and Southwest region.
“Our vision is to create the most endearing family pizza concept that is sustainable and maintains a foundational strength that will leave a legacy of excellence,” said Chavez. “With our contribution to the University of New Mexico, it is unquestionable that we are the real deal.”
Michael Baird, WisePies Pizza & Salad co-chief executive officer, added, “WisePies has introduced a fun, new brand that started in New Mexico with goals to expand nationally. Local community initiatives are paramount to our rapidly growing company as we expand to new territories.”
Since the arena’s construction in 1966, nearly 13 million fans have flocked to UNM’s iconic basketball arena and it has become one of college basketball’s most famous and recognizable buildings.
"This is yet another win for the Lobos and all of our fans – the timing couldn’t be better,” said UNM President Robert G. Frank. “The naming of WisePies Arena recognizes the company's generosity and commitment to UNM and to Lobo athletics."
"We look forward to partnering with WisePies on future endeavors," said Tim Cline, senior vice president for Learfield Sports, UNM Athletics' multimedia rights holder. "Our Lobo Sports Properties staff aligns with Paul and his team on a daily basis, and we're proud to have such a great partner in the University of New Mexico."