Always in need of donations, Popejoy Hall will offer a new incentive to large contributors.

The Popejoy Hall Donors’ Lounge will get a much-needed extension this fall. Chris Vallejos, institutional services associate vice president, said the University is awaiting final approval for the incentive from the New Mexico Higher Education Department, which should come in mid-September.

The project proposes a 688-square-foot addition to the existing donors’ lounge on the ground floor of the Center for the Arts Building, Vallejos said. The new steel-and-concrete structure will include new storefront window walls and energy-efficient LED lighting, according to the UNM Board of Regents agenda from Aug. 8.

The total estimated cost of the extension is $500,000, which is funded by Popejoy Development Funds, according to the UNM Board of Regents agenda.

Director of Public Events Thomas Tkach said Popejoy’s operations are largely dependent on private contributions.

The overhead budget for Popejoy to cover costs such as full-time staff salaries, supplies and maintenance is approximately $1.1 million. Tkach also said the University contributes nearly 8 percent of the budget, so the remainder of the budget relies on ticket sales and donations.

The donors’ lounge membership program requires a minimum contribution of $1,500 and ranges to a maximum of $15,000. About 400 lounge donors contribute to the performing arts at Popejoy, Tkach said.

The donors program creates a premium performing arts center in New Mexico and helps bring quality shows to New Mexico, he said.

“At one time we would have to travel to Denver, Phoenix or New York to see the performing arts, and now we have it in our own back yard. When University President Popejoy first had the hall built, he once said, ‘It’s the university’s handshake with the community,’” said Tkach.

Rachel Lamb, VIP service coordinator for Popejoy, said there has been a noticeable increase in lounge donors over past few years. Many donors have changed their contribution status from nominal donations of the $100 range to the donors’ lounge membership, she said.

Because of the increase in membership, Lamb said the new area will provide much-needed space.

“As the program grows in popularity, we find ourselves coming up short on physical space to support the benefits we offer,” Lamb said. “Eventually, we could begin to lose donors, or at the very least stop growing, which would be a huge detriment to our fundraising program.”

The new donors’ lounge extension will allow the program to grow, she said.

“The renovation and expansion of the Benefactors’ Lounge is absolutely crucial in allowing our donor program to grow,” Lamb said. “Without the support of our donors, Popejoy would not be able to fulfill its mission of making the performing arts accessible to all New Mexicans.”

Tkach said another important factor in gaining this extension is to create a new sense of aesthetic to the outside of the lounge.

“With the new open design we can really light up the building again and give it the feel that you’re coming to something special,” Tkach said. “We want the outside to reflect what is happening in the inside, the excitement of the performing arts.”

Robert Salas is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. Contact him at