Laguna Development signs $2.5 million pact with UNM athletics

Albuquerque, New Mexico (AP) 2-08

New Mexico athletics officials have announced a $2.5 million sponsorship agreement with a tribal casino-hotel, the largest such deal in the history of Lobo sports.

University President David Schmidly was asked at a news conference if he saw any problems with having Laguna Pueblo’s Route 66 Casino Hotel as a business partner in college sports and if he expected any backlash.

“No, not at all,” Schmidly said. “Gaming and the kinds of development that they’re doing in this state are part of the entertainment package in New Mexico. They don’t do any gambling on sports events or things of that nature, so I think it’s a win-win.”

Laguna Pueblo’s casino sits on tribal land about 25 miles west of Albuquerque. Three other tribes operate casinos near the city, and several more tribal casinos operate on reservations around New Mexico.

The five-year deal with the Laguna tribe was secured by Lobo Sports Properties, an extension of Learfield Sports and the multimedia rights holder for UNM athletics. The deal includes an option for a three-year extension.

According to a university news release, the agreement will establish Route 66 Casino Hotel as “the exclusive gaming sponsor” for New Mexico’s athletic department as of July.

The casino can post exclusive signs at The Pit, University Stadium and other campus sports venues, with advertising and promotional opportunities at football, men’s and women’s basketball, soccer, baseball and volleyball events.

“This is a fabulous partnership,” New Mexico athletics director Paul Krebs said. He called it “a generous financial commitment ... that will benefit hundreds of UNM student athletes for many years.”

The casino is managed by Laguna Development Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Pueblo of Laguna. The corporation’s mission is to help build the tribal economy through jobs and by providing income to tribal government.

“This is an important part of our effort to make Route 66 Casino Hotel the best-known gaming brand in the state of New Mexico,” LDC president Jerry Smith said. “This sponsorship represents our commitment to higher education and athletic excellence.”