By Alberto Urueta

UTEP Athletics facilities have been left untouched compared to the rest of the campus. With the competitive nature of college athletics it's hard not to compare UTEP’s venues to others within the state and within the conference. The conversation about venues and their conditions/upgrades is an important one because it comes up in recruiting and fans always bring it up as well, and as an Athletic program those are two entities you typically want to please. 

Over the past few years UTEP has taken strides towards upgrading their Athletics facilities in different ways. In 2018 they announced $15 million worth of renovations to the Sun Bowl to renovate the Press Box and build luxury areas. The first major renovation to the Bowl since 1982’s expansion of the seating capacity. The expansion cost $6.5 million according to this newspaper clipping of The Prospector from April 14, 1982. When that money is adjusted for inflation things don't look too good for UTEP. 

In 2021 UTEP announced the new Gordon Family Courtside Club being launched after an extremely generous donation by the Gordon Family. This saw one side of the Don Haskins developed into a Clubhouse of sorts for donors to congregate pre and post game. The access to not only players and coaches but premiere amenities and seating are expected to draw lots of attention and in turn generate revenue. 

But when you compare those two projects to recent projects undertaken by the University on the academic side they are violently dwarfed. In 2022 ground was broken on a $80 million Advanced Manufacturing and Aerospace Center. In 2023 ground was broken on a $110 million “Texas Western Hall” meant to replace an aging Liberal Arts building. Commitment to the development of your Athletic venues has to at least appear to be the same as your commitment to develop the rest of the campus.  

The long neglected Sun Bowl locker rooms have finally received some attention with the arrival of new Head Coach Scotty Walden. Locker rooms are where other highly successful and profitable programs like to spend to impress. In 2019 UT renovates their athletic facilities with $10 million, $7 million allocated only to their football locker room. In 2023 University of Michigan announced a $14 million renovation to their locker rooms. And although its unfair to compare UTEP to programs of that caliber, it is fair to compare the levels of commitment to developing the facilities on campus.  

Below I've listed three upgrades to venues in the city that are within the realm of possibility and in my opinion necessary for the program to take steps in the right direction. 

  1. Upgrade Sun Bowl lights to LED’s.  

This upgrade is long necessary when you consider that some local High School already have their hands on these. They have the capacity to do a light show of sorts on command like in the video seen here. This takes the gameday experience to the next level and can make the difference in games that go down to the wire.  

The price range for refitting the Sun Bowl Stadium with LED’s would run north of 700k. Boise State made the upgrade last year after a donation of $750k. UTEP’s neighbors to the north, Texas Tech, recently upgraded theirs as well and that cost $1.2 Million according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. The bulbs use less electricity and last longer which make economic sense in the long run. 

2. Luxury Box Seats in The Don Haskins. 

The Don is long overdue for an upgrade, but today I’ll focus just on what I think will generate the most revenue. UTEP’s hated rival NMSU just two years ago made upgrades to their Pan American Center that brought in an area of club seats and luxury seats. The upgrades came after a $2.9 anonymous donation to the Athletic program. Bringing luxury seating to the Don Haskins would be like putting lipstick on a pig unfortunately. The facility has been neglected and needs some love not only because it houses the Miners but because its a massive revenue generator for UTEP via Special Events.  

 3. Upgrade Memorial Gym. 

With the long postseason run that UTEP Volleyball had this year, all eyes were focused on Memorial Gym and its condition. It was opened in December of 1961 and it feels like it remains virtually untouched since. The capacity currently stands at 5,200 and the seats leave a lot of room for improvement to say the least. A good fundraising tactic in this instance is to remove the wooden stadium seating and auction them. They’re well maintained and with the right marketing the prices can soar. This is the facility that saw the 1966 National Champion team and in the renovation there's an opportunity to pay homage to the team, something we know the community loves. The fact of the matter is, an investment to improve the facility is not only overdue but also shows a commitment to the program and its development.  

What's next?

The University and the city need to work in unison to improve the facilities to usher them into the modern age. One entity can not do it without the cooperation of the other. Some facilities have been neglected more than others and it reflects poorly on the school and most importantly on the city. The thing about all this talk of renovation is UTEP can not do it alone, the city and/or private donors need to step in and help. The financial burden must be shared because the benefits of the facilities themselves are shared. If we correctly invest in these venues we will have something every El Pasoan can

GO MINERS: Former UTEP Miners Who Have Played in the NFL

It's not just in recent memory that former UTEP Miners football players would play in the NFL; it's been going on for years. Some have gone on to win the Super Bowl too. Here are some former UTEP Miners that have played in the NFL.

Gallery Credit: Daniel Paulus

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