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Hired as the University of New Mexico’s athletic director nearly four years ago, Eddie Nuñez was approached almost immediately with a vision that many in his department had.

The plan was to replace the school’s outdated Olympic weight training center with something modern.

“I mean, if we’re being honest, it seemed like the plan was a little rushed, and my first thought was that if we’re going to spend a million dollars on a metal building, let’s take our time and do it right, build something we can all be proud of,” Nuñez said.

On Thursday under pristine spring skies, that revamped vision finally came to fruition when Nuñez, flanked by one of his department’s strongest corporate partners in New Mexico Mutual President and CEO Norm Becker, announced UNM will construct a $3.5 million, 15,000-square-foot athletic performance center inside the school’s football stadium. New Mexico Mutual will provide

$1 million and will be given naming rights to the building, which will sit just outside the south end zone of University Stadium and connect to the three-story Tow Diehm Facility, extending outward to within 20 yards of the goalpost.

Construction will begin in a matter of months, said UNM senior associate athletic director and Lobo Club Executive Director Jalen Dominguez. The work will take about a year and will dominate the view of that end of the stadium throughout the 2021 season.

The building will replace the Olympic training center immediately west of the athletic department’s main offices. In essence, the 8,000-square-foot structure is a semipermanent tent with no heating, cooling, plumbing or ventilation.

“If it gets above 80 [degrees] or gets as cold as it does on most winter days around here, it’s almost unusable,” Dominguez said.

The new facility nearly doubles the floor space, but it also gives a permanent structure that addresses a number of issues for UNM’s athletic department. Among them, Nuñez said, is leveling the playing field for men’s and women’s sports.

“When we did our Title IX assessment a while back, one of the things we determined was we had to provide better opportunities for our student-athletes, not just the football team or the basketball team,” Nuñez said. “This will be an all-inclusive facility that will give every team, every student-athlete a place to get the most out of their college experience.”

During Thursday morning’s news conference, which was attended by a number of UNM coaches, boosters and officials, a video montage played on the stadium’s video replay board. Most of it was one coach after another talking about the benefits of the new structure.

It will be a one-story building that will run the width of the Tow Diehm Facility. Running down the middle will be a tunnel from which the football team can enter and exit the field on game days. The roof will taper downward and allow fans to watch games from a pavilion-style viewing area.

Dominguez said the athletic department worked hard the last four years to secure the funding, doing so with private and school funds.

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