UNM Champions Training Center Project: “Let’s Do It Right”

When Eddie Nuñez arrived as athletic director at the University of New Mexico in 2017, he saw that a training facility project was beginning to gain momentum.

But he also acknowledged that the location wasn’t exactly desirable, which was one of the aspects of the plan that needed tweaking. Over 14 years at LSU, Nuñez has brought experience in development, architecture, and construction that has resulted in more than $700 million worth of projects coming to fruition. He said he wants to make the training center project at UNM one of his top priorities.

He said one mission statement stuck with him at the time: if we have to do it, let’s do it right.

On Wednesday, that project got closer to “doing it right” with the official grand opening of the New Mexico Mutual Champions Training Center inside the University Stadium. The event included photo ops for Nuñez, his staff and coaches, as well as UNM administration and Mutual of New Mexico representatives, as several grabbed shovels carrying the UNM Lobo logo on the cherry colored blade.

The event also served as a reminder of how close the Lobos are to completing their academy. They hope to have it ready for use late this fall, Nuñez said.

The project budget is estimated at $4.3 million. New Mexico Mutual, a workers’ compensation insurer, spearheaded the project with a $1 million principal gift about five years ago.

“To be able to set up a facility that is going to serve all of our student-athletes, as athletic director, that’s what you do this job for,” Nuñez said. “We want to be able to give them all the resources and our coaches the ability to be successful, to make them excel in their sport.”

The plan is for the training facility to be used by all UNM sports except for men’s and women’s basketball. Basketball teams have their own facility at the Rudy Davalos Training Center at the Pit.

For the past six years, the majority of UNM athletes have used the training area next to the UNM administration building. This facility is inside a tent that UNM had to rent, making monthly payments. At first, UNM was paying about $6,000 to $7,000 a month for the tent, said Ryan Berryman, associate athletic director for business operations.

But in recent years, Albuquerque Tents has stepped in as a partner to cut costs to about $2,500 a month, Berryman said. When the new training center is complete, these costs – and the tent – ​​will disappear.

UNM athletes will have access to the Champions Training Center, as well as the weight room inside the Tow Diehm facility which is essentially next door. Technically, this weight room is for the football team, but UNM football coach Danny Gonzales says he’s not territorial and wants all student-athletes to be able to train together and support each other.

Jon Newman-Gonchar, UNM’s women’s volleyball coach since 2019, is eager to get her team out of the tent and into the Champions Training Center. The coach said he also brings up the new facility project when recruiting.

The UNM women’s volleyball team had a stellar fall season, finishing 20-9, 11-7 at Mountain West. It was the first time the Lobos had 20 wins since 2013, and the 11 conference wins were the most since 2014.

“(Recruits) choose based on curriculum or academics; there are a lot of factors,” Newman-Gonchar said. “But the academy is a feather in the hat, kind of the icing on the cake, so to speak. “Here’s what you’ll have access to when you join UNM and become a Lobo.” This is an incredible opportunity for us to be put on the map when it comes to training centers.

Milton S. Rodgers