The University of New Mexico’s Board of Regents recently approved the New Mexico Mutual Champions Training Center, a $4.3 million project for student-athletes, on Aug. 19. This extensive training center will be exclusively for student-athlete use, replacing the tent that teams currently train in that stands as a Title IX compliance deficiency.
The construction of this center is important in fulfilling a Title IX requirement that the University currently fails to meet, which is that more women than men are training in the 7,200-net-square-foot outdoor tent rather than in climate-controlled indoor facilities, according to Eddie Nuñez, UNM Director of Athletics. Previously, the football team had access to their own indoor weight room, and a temporary solution to this problem was created four years ago when all athletics teams were transferred to using the tent as well as the indoor weight room in rotations. However, because there are more female sports teams than mens’ at UNM, this still remains a Title IX inequity.
“The way we're structured today is where I wanted to be four years ago, to address all our student athletes and have the available facilities to be able to do what is necessary for all sports; in particular, many of those are our female sports,” Nuñez said.
According to the proposal presented to the Board of Regents, this 11,312-gross-square-foot center will be located on south campus as an extension to the Tow Diehm Facility. The two-story building with plans for a future roof deck will be “flexible to accommodate multiple training equipment layouts, and to incorporate adjacent outdoor areas for training.”
The new facility is focused primarily on UNM’s Olympic sports teams, including men’s baseball and football; men’s and women’s tennis, golf, cross-country and track and field; and women’s swimming and diving, softball, volleyball and soccer. This facility will “cure UNM’s Title IX compliance deficiency, by providing a permanent facility for the majority of UNM’s female athletic teams,” according to the proposal.
The funding for this project predominantly stems from capital outlay appropriation money, which are funds specifically directed toward a certain project by state legislators, and private donations; approximately $2.3 million will be drawn from the appropriation funds and another $1.1 million will be funded by private donors. The last $900,000 will come from the University. Nuñez said the athletic department is still anticipating funds from donors and plans to fully repay the $900,000 before ground is officially broken on the project.
“For us to be able to get this project started, with the way New Mexico works, is to have every single penny ready to go when you start design, and then get all the approvals,” Nuñez said. “We have a lot of individuals that have pledged money and it's coming, and they have come, but it's not at all in today.”
Controversy has sparked in response to the expensive project, and Samantha Cooney, a member of the coordinating committee for the United Graduate Workers of UNM, said the athletics department continues to be approved for expensive projects, despite having just recovered from multiple deficits, while the Union continues to be dismissed.
“Whenever the athletics department requests funds, it is almost done without reason, without a problem, there's almost no hesitation … But when the graduate workers or even the faculty union tries to negotiate higher stipends, other benefits and even adequate working conditions, we are met with constant refusal, push back and anti-union rhetoric,” Cooney said.
Greg Romero, the Associated Students of University of New Mexico president, said that he doesn’t know all of the nuances of the project but that, despite the drawbacks associated with the cost of the project, the regents did approve it; in turn, he is focused on the benefits for UNM’s athletes. He did say, however, that there are also other places on campus that could use this kind of funding.
“It will benefit a lot of student-athletes on our campus, and I think the tough part is that everything costs money,” Romero said.
Nuñez said the construction on the project is estimated to start sometime after the football season ends in early winter.
Madeline Pukite is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @madelinepukite