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A rendering of the proposed south campus sports and entertainment plaza. 

Proposed south campus sports and entertainment plaza gains traction once again

UNM’s plans for a sports and entertainment district on south campus have roared back to life with a new collaborator in 54 Development – as well as UNM alumnus Brian Urlacher – following ground lease approval from the Board of Regents of Friday.

“The hope is that this entertainment plaza will…really activate south campus to make this a fabulous place to attend sporting events and also other events when there is not a major activity,” said Tom Neale, director of UNM Real Estate.

Neale said the project currently consists of one acre of land in the southeast corner of the University Stadium parking lot, on the corner of Avenida Cesar Chavez and University Boulevard.

It would include several restaurant sites, a taproom and a nightclub, as well as an outdoor entertainment plaza with multiple large TV screens.

A short video showing a digital rendering of what the project would look like was shown before the regents, boasting a multi-level indoor and outdoor space that can cater to large groups of visitors.

The brand of Brian Urlacher – one of the more recognizable University of New Mexico products – will also have a presence in the form of a sports grill named for the former NFL player.

Urlacher even called in to the meeting to say he is excited for the project.

“I think it’s going to be great for the University and that area,” he said.

According to a UNM press release, 54 Development team – along with architects involved in the project – traveled to several cities around the country to view similar venues and to help them formulate a design.

Vice President for Athletics Paul Krebs said that developing a project such as this is in conjunction with part of the master plan for UNM athletics. He said that UNM – along with its project partner in 54 Development – is working to iron out any kinks the project may cause, including parking.

“We’re working with (54 Development team members) Paul Silverman and Kyle (Bodhaine) and Steven (Chavez) and we really feel like those issues have been addressed or are in the process of being addressed, and we feel very confident about the project,” Krebs said.

UNM President Bob Frank said the University has been working to develop the area for years now and that he is happy about the partnerships that are based around south campus, including collaborating with WisePies.

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Regent Robert Doughty also stated his approval for the project, as well as praised the work of Regent James Koch, who is chair of the Lobo Development Corporation, which works to diversity revenue streams for UNM through projects such as these.

“I think this is a great opportunity for the University to really help it grow,” Doughty said.

54 Development isn’t the first potential partner to collaborate with UNM on a space for Lobo sports fans. Earlier in the year the University was in talks with Marble Development to create a sports entertainment district in virtually the same spot.

But when it came time to discuss the financials, Marble Development got cold feet and backed out of the partnership.

Those deliberations were not an issue this time around with a new developer.

“We also have the ability to share the upside and the success of the project,” Neale said. “I just want to compliment the 54 Development team because they were very gracious in negotiations and working with us in trying to find a way where we can also share in the success of the project.”

Neale said the base rent for the ground lease is $75,000 a year for 40 years. Construction could begin as soon as next summer, following an agreed-upon period of 240 days to “finalize the construction documents, secure financing and prepare the site for development,” according to the UNM release.

Krebs said that the project, once completed, will suit the atmosphere for local athletics.

“I think it’ll compliment what we’re trying to do in that (area) in creating a festive, fan (based) environment around our games, before our games, after our games,” Krebs said.

David Lynch is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. Contact him at managingeditor@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

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