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Official Review by Eric Moreno, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The 2016 edition of the Gildan New Mexico Bowl proved to be one for the ages. Head Coach Bob Davie's New Mexico Lobos squared off with Head Coach Frank Wilson's UTSA Roadrunners, who were making their first ever bowl appearance. A raucous crowd of nearly 30,000 braved the elements, and were treated to a truly memorable kickoff to the 2016 bowl season.
The contest went down to the wire, but Davie's squad, in what was ostensibly a home game for UNM, was able to hang on to win the game 23-20, taking home their first bowl victory in nine years. The Sandia Mountains, visible on the horizon from virtually every seat in the stadium, gave silent witness to a truly historic afternoon in Albuquerque.
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The food and drink selection at University Stadium includes pretty standard fare. Lobos dogs (a.k.a. hot dogs), French fries, pretzels, popcorn, and soda are all available for around $5. There are also some higher ticket items, such as chicken finger baskets and one of the state's signature flavors, green chiles (in the form of a green chile cheeseburger), on the menu at the five main concession stands (one in the corner of each end zone, and one in the north end concourse).
In addition to the above, there are also pared down Domino's kiosks throughout the stadium, selling cheese and pepperoni pizza by the slice, along with a few other items from their in-store menu. Despite the lack of anything truly unique, there is enough available to make the game watching experience satisfying. One caveat to be aware of - you can expect to wait in long lines at the concessions stands. Because there are relatively few stands, the lines tend to bunch up, so it would be wise to plan your visits strategically.
The 2016 New Mexico Bowl greatly benefited from having the home town team (and regular tenants of the building) University of New Mexico Lobos on the field. A good sized crowd, with a lot personally invested in the outcome, filled the stands and made the action lively. It also helped that the game turned out to be an exciting one.
In terms of atmosphere, the stadium is like a high-end high school stadium; bench-style seats with clearly defined home and visitor sides add to that vibe. Being out in the elements in December in Albuquerque might not be everyone's idea of a great time, but it definitely felt like football. The old school look and feel of University Stadium is a perfect fit, and will be enjoyed by football fans both casual and diehard.
For sports fans, the site of University Stadium and the New Mexico Bowl are ideal. Situated on the campus of the University of New Mexico, you are right in the middle of their sports complex. The fabled Pit is within walking distance, as are the University's baseball and tennis facilities. Also within sight is Isotopes Park, home to the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes (one of the greatest real-life Simpsons nods ever).
Beyond that, there is not much else to do for visitors to the Bowl Game, at least not within walking distance. Albuquerque itself is teeming with activity - such as Old Town, Sandia Peak and its Tramway, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, and the has-to-be-seen-to-be-believed Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum. There are also outdoor activities aplenty, and Breaking Bad tours and events are omnipresent. However, these all take a bit of driving and exploring away from University Stadium.
Again, the 2016 Gildan New Mexico Bowl benefited greatly from having the hometown Lobos as one of its participants. In addition, the "home team" UTSA Roadrunners brought in close to 4,000 fans of their own, and their enthusiasm with having literally never been to a bowl game before added to the overall environment.
Throughout the city, references to the New Mexico Bowl abound. The city is behind the game and the feeling is palpable; that energy and enthusiasm resonates during the game and among the fans.
University Stadium is easy to move around and easy to get to, right off I-25. Avenida Cesar Chavez is a major thoroughfare in the city, and runs parallel to University Stadium. Being on campus also allows fans easy access to and more than ample parking. Despite there being no real public transportation to and from the site, getting to and leaving the New Mexico Bowl is relatively painless. Even at capacity, you should not have to wait too long to either park or leave.
In terms of pricing, the Gildan New Mexico Bowl is easily one of the most affordable on the college football landscape. General admission seats (which are in a prime location in the north end of the stadium) can be had for $25; premium seating is $40. Parking on campus can be had for as little as $10 per car. Combining these with the affordable cost of concessions makes for an affordable and exciting afternoon.
Given the history of the game, in which nearly every game has been at the very least competitive, and at the very best down-to-the-wire exciting, you can't beat the value. It also should be on the bucket list of every sports fan to attend a bowl game, and this would be a great "gateway" to getting that done.
One of the best aspects of attending a college football game is seeing the bands perform at halftime; being at University Stadium for the Gildan New Mexico Bowl continues this trend. The 2016 edition featured both the Spirit Marching Band of the University of New Mexico and the Spirit of San Antonio UTSA Marching Band. The spectacle of these two bands performing added greatly to the overall energy of the game.
In addition, having the presence of ESPN on-site added to the game's air of importance. The presentation of the game trophy was also a highlight; a piece of Zia Pueblo pottery painted with football players, the logos of the competing teams, and Pueblo symbols (the Gildan New Mexico Bowl logo).
For being one of the "lesser" bowls, the Gildan New Mexico Bowl offered great excitement and energy from the stands. The on-field competition did not disappoint, and fans of college football would easily be enthralled and engaged by what is put on by the good people of Albuquerque. The city itself is beautiful, and is the perfect host for an event of this type.
If you are looking for all the bells and whistles of "big time" college football, you might not find that here, but in terms of bang for your buck, you can't beat the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.
Follow Eric Moreno's Stadium Journey on Twitter @EricMoreno6477.
Member Review by richkurt on Jan 19, 2014
The 2013 Gildan New Mexico Bowl has to go down as one of the greatest in the eight year history of the bowl game. Why? Because of the fantastic finish the Colorado State Rams put together.
Trailing by as much as 22 points during the contest, and finding themselves behind 15 with a mere four minutes to play, the Rams put together the “Miracle in New Mexico” to win the game. Garrett Grayson led his team on a touchdown drive, but CSU still trailed by eight. On the ensuing Washington State drive, the Cougars looked to run the clock out, but Rams' star Shaquil Barrett forced two straight fumbles – one overturned, the second stayed a fumble – and Colorado State scored not only the touchdown, but the two-point conversion to tie it up.
Then, on the kickoff, the Rams forced another fumble and kicked home the field goal to win 48-45. The fans and players alike stormed the field as there was a rush of exuberance for all of them in the school's first bowl win since 2008 in New Mexico.
And University Stadium is a stellar setting for the event. The great wall that makes up the exterior of the west stands greets fans with giant pictures of their best players hanging there, and it opens up to a lovely little stadium.
Newly redone in 2001 is the jumbotron, known as “Lobovision,” as well as seating in the north end zone. From high up in the press box – which is interestingly in the middle of fan sections to both sides and giant glass windows connecting the space – there are beautiful vistas of the Sandia Mountains to the east. They were snow-covered for the late December bowl game, just gorgeous.
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303 Romero St NW
Albuquerque, NM 87104
30 Tramway Rd NE
Albuquerque, NM 87122
2401 12th St NW
Albuquerque, NM 87104
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