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  • Writer's pictureMeg Minard

The Pit – New Mexico Lobos


Photos by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00

The Pit 1111 University SE Albuquerque, NM 87106



Year Opened: 1966

Capacity: 15,411

 

The Pit

The University of New Mexico men’s basketball team, known as the Lobos, play their home games at The Pit.   The Pit, built in a 37-foot-deep hole on Albuquerque’s southeast mesa, has served as home for some of the most vocal fans in the nation.  The arena has had upgrades and expansions throughout the years, modernizing it with a remodeled concessions area, video boards, ribbons boards, graphics package, constructing a suite level, and adding NBA-style locker rooms and a player’s lounge.

Even though it’s 58 years old now, it is a fantastic venue in which to watch college hoops. New Mexico men’s basketball is relevant nationally because of The Pit (its sunken court structure, and the noise level that it creates). 


The Lobos play in the Mountain West Conference.  The men’s team began in 1899 and started competing with local colleges in 1920.  Though the school has never advanced to a Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament, the basketball team plays to capacity or near-capacity crowds at the venue on a regular basis. They have reached the NCAA Tournament 15 times (their last appearance was in 2014) and have been conference champions 12 times. 


Food & Beverage 3

Plenty of concession counters surround the entire concourse, with all open for the men’s games.  Additional adult beverage carts are available at a men’s game.  Be sure to walk the entire concourse, as no two counters provide exactly the same choices.  All concession stands are cashless.


Choices include:

  • Laguna Burgers ($11 - $13)

  • Grab N Go (snacks and drinks)

  • Louie’s Pizza Den ($8 a slice)

  • Sugar Snack (funnel cake, ice cream, fries, nachos)

  • Nacho Mama’s Nacho (a variety of nachos $10 - $13; most come with green chile)

  • Paletas (A Mexican frozen treat made from fresh natural fruits)

  • Section U Fan Zone (Frito pie, chicken tender basket, burrito, chimichanga $7 - $12)

  • Cool-ickle Bar (pickle flavored popcorn and lemonade)

  • Multiple stands with the traditional choices of hot dogs, corn dogs, chips, fries, and candy


With this being New Mexico, expect to find green chile in many of the offerings.


Pepsi products are the soda of choice ($6 - $7).  The concessions sell a variety of canned domestic and premium beers ($10 - $11).


My recommendations:  Stay away from the pizza concession stand, as the slices taste awful.   The Laguna Burgers are tasty (and can be made to order), and the nachos from Nacho Mama’s look scrumptious.  If you like pickles, be sure to visit the Cool-ickle Bar kiosk.



Atmosphere 4

It’s called The Pit because that’s exactly what it is.  A dug-out arena with the seating below ground level.  The concourse is at street level and surrounds the top of the seating bowl.   


Row 1 is the closest to the concourse (not counting handicapped seats), and row 27 is the closest to the court.  Sections A – G are chairbacks; the rest are bleachers (without backs).  The seating area has much-needed handrails. The seating is cherry and silver colored (team colors), has no cup holders, and there’s no legroom between the rows. Suites are above the concession level. 


The arena has two video boards hung up behind each basket, which show game action, replays, and player stats.  Ribbon boards provide the score, half, time left, and time outs.  I recommend not getting the top four or five rows at the ends and in the corners as an overhang blocks the view of the video board.


Refreshingly, game day operations do not constantly blare music.  Fans do not need ear plugs, although the fan energy is loud. The game day music is a good mix of the pep band and canned music.   The temperature is a tad on the cool side, so bring an extra layer if you chill easily.


Game day operations turn off the lights during the introductions, and fans wave their phone flashlights in honor of the players introductions.   It’s all quite impressive.



Cheerleaders entertain the crowd and perform at half-time.  And the cheer squad throws t-shirts into the stands, which riles up the fans even more.


Neighborhood 4

The Pit is part of an athletic venue complex that includes University Stadium (Lobos football) across the street and Isotopes Park catty-corner to the northeast. The Santa Ana Star Field (Lobos baseball) and Lobos Softball Field (softball) are just south of The Pit.  The Pit is aglow at night, showing off the outside beauty of the arena.  The area is well lit and has lots of security, making patrons feel safe.


A mile south gets you to the nearest restaurants or watering holes; most are chain restaurants like Buffalo Wild Wings, Fuddruckers, Chilis, etc.


Your best bet for local fare and nightlife entertainment is to head north to the Old Route 66 (Central Ave), Nob Hill area.  Frontier Restaurant, a long-standing UNM favorite establishment featuring traditional Mexican food and burgers, is in this area.  For traditional Irish fare, try the Two Fools Tavern.  Saggio’s and Dion’s, local pizza chains, offer good pizza and Italian fare.


Several breweries are within a few miles of The Pit:  The 377 Brewery, Differential Brewing Co, Flock of Moons Brewing Co, Bosque Brewing Co, and more. 


For places to stay, a slew of hotels are over a mile or two away near the airport, with all the national brands present:  Hilton, Marriott, Best Western, Holiday Inn, and more.  Or check Airbnb or VRBO, if staying more than one night. 


When in Albuquerque, a must-visit is riding on the Sandia Peak Tramway, which transports you 2.7 miles to the top of the Sandia Mountains (not for those with acrophobia).  For those interested, Albuquerque offers Breaking Bad RV Tours.  Or a visit to the ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden & Zoo may be of interest.  With 19 Native American Pueblos in New Mexico, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is another must-visit.


There’s plenty to see, do, eat, and drink in Albuquerque, but all over a mile from The Pit.


Fans 5

The Lobos fans are passionate and vocal.  They all stand at the beginning of each half and cheer on the players till each team makes their first basket.   


The student section stands the entire game; some come decked out in face paint.  They bring flags, posters, and big head cutouts.  And you’ll see all kinds of Lobos shirts, hats, and jerseys throughout all seating areas. 


There’s the pep band, spirit squad, and cheerleaders regaling the fans pregame, after each basket, and at half-time. 


So far, in this early part of the 2023-2024 season, the average attendance per game is 11,707, with a sellout crowd against their in-state rival New Mexico State Aggies. 


Access 4

The arena is on the University of New Mexico campus, one-half mile off Interstate 25.   It is across from the football stadium (University Stadium), next to the baseball stadium (Santa Ana Star Field), and diagonally across from Isotopes Park, where the Isotopes and New Mexico United play.  Various parking lots are around the venue.  Parking costs $12 for men’s basketball games.


The Pit is about three miles from the airport.  (The Pit) University @ Avenida Cesar Chavez is the closest bus stop just in front of the main entrance.  Check the transit website for maps, fares, and schedules.  Be sure to check the time of a return trip.  Uber and Lyft are easily available with drop off and pick up in front of the main entrance.


Gates open an hour and a half before game time.  Getting through security is painless.  Fans hand their bags to security personnel, empty their pockets, and walk through a scanner.  Clear sports bags up to 12” x 6” x 12” are allowed.  Check their bag policy for more details.


The concourse on top of the seating bowl gets very crowded at a men’s game.  Serviceable, but unremarkable, restrooms are scattered around the concourse.


Plenty of handicapped parking and seating are available for those fans who need it.  Not uncommon in college sports, closed captioning is not offered.


Return on Investment 4

Attending a Lobos men’s basketball game is a decent value.

Ticket prices run from $15 to $45, with club level seats running $75, which is typical for mid major conferences.  The team has chairback rentals for $6, with proceeds benefitting the UNM Spirit Program. 


Parking is $12 for men’s games and can be purchased online pregame.  Concession prices are what is expected at a D1 college venue.


Extras 4

Several other items are worth noting.

Lobo is the Spanish word for wolf, and the arena exhibits two wolf statues outside the main entrance.


The venue’s interior displays historic timelines of Lobos basketball history all around the concourse walls, all worth reading.



The atrium stands tall with a 56-foot glass tower with white steel structures.  The extensive glasswork envelopes the street level, adding light and providing views of the Sandia Mountains to the east.  It’s quite a marvel.


Finally, the arena has a huge merchandise store (called the Lobo Den Store) selling all kinds of Lobo paraphernalia, shirts, sweatshirts, other clothes, hats, etc.


Final Thoughts

Visiting The Pit, watching a New Mexico Lobo’s men’s basketball game and participating in the crowd experience is an exciting evening out.


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