ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Surging cases and the emerging threat of the omicron variant has UNM changing its COVID protocol at The Pit. After the Christmas weekend, most Lobo fans will have to bring proof of vaccination or a negative test.

Vaccines or a negative COVID-19 test is now required for fans attending basketball games at The Pit. UNM’s Department of Athletics announced Monday the new directive will start with the women’s and men’s basketball games on Tuesday, December 28.

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“Things change and we have to pivot and adapt when things happen and this is one of those times,” said Eddie Nunez, Director of UNM Athletics. “Our student-athletes are the ones, first and foremost we want to keep them safe, healthy so they can do what they’re here to do. But we also have a responsibility to make sure our fans and everyone else who comes to The Pit have a safe and healthy environment.”

UNM athletics says it made the decision with guidance from university leadership and medical experts. “For me, it was trying to provide a safe environment, being responsible to everybody in the venue but seeing how we can do this and provide options for everybody as much as possible,” said Nunez.

According to a news release from the university, Lobo fans will have three ways to gain entry into The Pit to watch games. First, fans can show proof of vaccination meaning they’ve had two shots of Pfizer or Moderna or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine with the last shot received two weeks prior to the date of event entry. However, The Pit is teaming up with Southwest Labs to provide free, on-site testing for game goers.

The news release states that the second way would be to provide proof of a negative COVID test. PCR tests must be within 72 hours and an antigen test must be within 24 hours of the event. They say at-home COVID tests are not valid. The third way to watch a game at The Pit is to be under the age of 12 as fans up to the age of 11 will be admitted without proof of vaccination.

Students had mixed feelings about the new policy. “I’ve been to a lot of places where that’s like, they’re already doing that,” said UNM student, Leticia Vargas.

“I get the University’s approach, I don’t necessarily love it, but it makes sense,” said Anthony McMaster, a UNM graduate student. “It doesn’t feel great having to show a piece of paper saying I’m in some group to go to the games. I still love supporting my Lobos no matter what and I’ll still be at the games.”

The news release states that all events at The Pit must adhere to state health regulations by wearing a face mask. The policy will remain in place for all events until the end of January 2022 and which time the policy will be reassessed. UNM says it’s still working on hiring about 20 to 30 more employees to help implement the policy but Navy ROTC will also help with implementation. The next game at The Pit is Tuesday between the Lobo men and Norfolk State.

When the policy goes into effect, The Pit will open 30 minutes earlier than normal, (90 minutes prior to tip) to allow more time to get people in. UNM is the sixth of the 11 Mountain West teams to implement a policy in their arenas.