UNM's basketball venue has been called The Pit since it opened in 1966. Fans will have to break their habit of calling it that soon, because somebody finally purchased the naming rights.
WisePies Pizza and Salad agreed to give $5 million over 10 years to support the UNM Athletics Department through the newly established WisePies Fund. Because of this donation, The Pit will be dubbed WisePies Arena, aka The Pit, for the duration of those 10 years.
WisePies made its first donation of $100,000 on Monday, according to the payment schedule. WisePies will donate another $100,000 on Dec. 31, 2015. Beginning on Dec. 31, 2016, WisePies will make an annual donation of $600,000 until 2023.
"It's truly my pleasure to welcome you all to the WisePies Arena, also known as The Pit," UNM President Bob Frank said. "This is a historic time for the University of New Mexico as we commemorate our largest gift ever to Lobo athletics."
The money from this donation will go toward the debt service for The Pit and will free up some of the operating budget. The Athletics Department plans to use some of this "freed-up" money to supplement other sports programs.
"From the time we first discussed the potential renovation of The Pit (in 2009), we talked about the need for state and private support to make the renovation a reality," said Paul Krebs, Vice President for Athletics at the University. "Specifically, we've talked about the need to find a naming rights partner for the building."
Locally owned by Steven Chavez and Michael Baird, WisePies has been in operations since Jan. 18. WisePies spokeswoman Season Elliott said she is very excited for the opportunity to be a part of such a nationally recognized landmark like The Pit.
"The next ten years will be an incredible journey for both WisePies Pizza and Salad and the University of New Mexico," Elliott said. "We feel honored, we are humbled and we are energized to move forward with this partnership."
UNM's deal is fairly competitive compared to other schools in the Mountain West. San Diego State sold its naming rights in 2009 to casino operators Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians for $6.9 million, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, while Boise State in 2004 made a $4 million deal over 15 years with Taco Bell to name its arena, The Associated Press reported.
Bob King Court also saw a makeover Monday afternoon. The mysterious "spy" wearing a white hat with a red stripe, also known as the WisePies logo, will sit atop the court for the next 10 years.
Video boards and graphics will now boast the WisePies logo throughout the arena. Krebs said vending the product is a challenging issue and it is not yet clear whether concessions will provide pizza and salads.
Along with the inside makeover, Lobo tickets will now be stamped with WisePies Arena text and its logo will appear on single game ticket stock, GoLobos.com, unm.edu and LoboClub.com.
Lobo men's basketball head coach Craig Neal said he is excited about the opportunity with WisePies and enjoys knowing that the owners are Lobo supporters.
"I think one of the unique things that we haven't talked about is that I don't know how many basketball arenas named from a local business," he said. "That's a big thing."
Kyle Tomasi is a sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @KyTo22.