LAS CRUCES – The stars seem to have aligned for the New Mexico State athletics department.
As the Aggies programs are set to enter Conference USA next year, the locker room facility for the Aggies football program has been a glaring need, but without a funding source outside of the athletic department, a new locker room was simply not possible.
That is exactly what happened during a New Mexico State University Board of Regents special meeting on Wednesday. The Board approved an issuance of revenue bonds to the tune of $28.5 million that will be used to finance four facility improvement projects across campus, including a $15 million locker room addition inside Aggie Memorial Stadium, across from the Hall of Legends.
“The dollar figure is pretty significant where a capital campaign over years probably could have raised that kind of money, but this was far and away a little bit of a God send,” NM State athletics director Mario Moccia said.
“It’s a funding source that comes around once every several years so I think the timing aligned that when these funds became available, there is a ASNMSU President who was very receptive to this project, politicians came through and saw the nature of the facility, as well as the Regents.”
The Regents voted 5-0 to authorize the administration to proceed with the issuance of revenue bonds and delegates authority to approve the final terms of the bonds.
“Bonds are essentially a loan that public entities take out to fund projects,” University spokesman Justin Bannister said. “The University is designating a percentage of part of its recurring revenue.”
In this case, the recurring revenue are student fees, which will not increase but will fund the facility improvements. Bannister said the bonds are scheduled to be paid off through student fees over the next 20 years.
It’s certainly not the first time the University has used the bonding process through student fees to make facility improvements. The Center for the Arts building was mostly constructed through GO bonds, but student fees bond issuance was used for the project. Prior Corbett Center upgrades and the University Bookstore were also funded through student fees bond issuance.
“It’s a mechanism that the University uses every few years that is constantly in the process of being paid down or retired,” Bannister said. “If student fees are being used to service facilities or upgrades, they are projects that directly benefits students.”
The football locker room addition was the lone request from the athletics department at the beginning of a process on campus that started in January. There will be a $3.3 million renovation inside the Pan American Center, $5.9 million for improvements at the Corbett Center Student Union and $3.8 million in facility upgrades for the Activity Center and Aquatic Center.
“The University took an assessment of needs of different facilities around campus and the dollar amounts and found projects the best fit and that could be financed through these bonds,” Bannister said. “There is a lot of need, but this was the amount we could finance through the revenue bonds.
“The University is broadly aware of a lot of areas that need attention, but over the last few months, the University began working on a process to see what a revenue bond project would look like and what projects could benefit and this was the result.”
The current locker room facility was constructed along with Aggie Memorial Stadium in 1978.
The proposed two-story addition will include; a training and nutrition area, office space for graduate assistants and staff, a student athlete lounge area, a larger equipment space and a video room. NM State athletics director Mario Moccia said that all 400 student athletes will be able to utilized the facility.
The current locker room will be used for visiting opponents.
“Every once in a while, you have an opportunity to make a big investment that will serve all student athletes for the next 40 years,” Associated Students of NMSU President Garrett Moseley said. “I had toured the facility and talked to Mario and (football coach Jerry Kill) about it. They consulted all of the relevant stakeholders and the process was very transparent.
“They have been very inclusive and I was able to be a student voice. That was a big part of the process. I think we really hit on the needs for the University, but some of it is still tentative so I can’t say much about (other projects) right now.”
Wednesday’s Regents vote triggered an approval process through the state over a three-month period, according to the Board’s timetable. The New Mexico Finance Authority (Thursday) and the New Mexico State Board of Finance must approve the bonds issuance. If approved, funding could be secured by November with construction possible following the 2022 football season.
“Whenever a Government entity like the University goes through this process, there is a next level of approval with the state,” Bannister said. “(If approved), the University will work with a funding authority to sell those bonds in the open market. Investors will purchase them and then the money would become available to the University.”
Although the Pan American Center will benefit athletics, it was not an athletics request since the arena is used for multiple events throughout the year through special events.
The Pan Am improvements are:
“It is so difficult for people to comprehend that we are renters of the Pan American Center, but I knew that for years, they have talked about the retractable seating, but as far as the other seats are concerned, that was kind of new to me,” Moccia said. “Athletics will have to take a look at look so how that will change the seating is something we haven’t really dove into yet.”