ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – After years of plummeting attendance, Lobo fans are flocking back to The Pit this year, bringing the storied arena back to life. Attendance is up almost 30%. Tuesday’s game against the Nevada Wolf Pack was nearly a sell-out with more than 15,000 tickets being sold. 

Lobo fans packed the pit for decades, routinely ranking in the top 20 for attendance. But over the last decade, attendance has plummeted more than 50% “For the last several years, it’s been a grind getting them out there and I understand we didn’t have the product, we didn’t have the best team representing us,” said Eddie Nuñez, UNM’s Athletic Director.

But this season, things are turning around as the men’s basketball team started with a 14-game winning streak which brought in the fans. “Winning is part of the equation and it’s a big part. We’re not going to sugarcoat in any way. We can do a lot of things when it comes to marketing and promoting and making sure that the fan experience is unbelievable, but the truth of the matter is you have to win, you have to represent yourself the way that everybody expects it,” said Nuñez. 

UNM students say they’re hearing more buzz on campus around the basketball team. “A lot of my friends and roommates on campus are really excited that we’ve been doing so well this year,” said student Claire Wheeler. 

Lobo players say the support isn’t going unnoticed. Jamal Mashburn Jr. shared, “For them to just react in the way that they’re reacting in just the year span, because we can see a difference from the year, last year ago today, till what it is now, you know the fans are unbelievable and we’ve put in the work to get it back to this point and we’re going to continue to do that.”

Last season, the Lobos ranked 39th in attendance, dropping below 9,000 fans a game. But this season, they’ve cracked the top 30 again with more than 11,000 fans a game and climbing.  

UNM student Ian Lyons shared, “It’s been great. Everyone’s loud, everyone’s dressed all white, all red whatever we’re doing, all black, and yeah, it’s been great. Everyone’s yelling.”

Another student, Elijah Castro said, “You can feel it in the air kind of how much people are excited to watch these guys play and just have a good time.”

Nolan Murphy, the UNM senior leading the school’s student section, said the athletic department is trying to make improvements so that it’s easier to purchase tickets and navigate parking. “Social media drives a lot of it. A lot of our students are on socials, and then also just sending out weekly emails and reminding students and saying, ‘hey, this is a link you can use to get tickets,’” Murphy explained. 

The return of former Lobo Coach Steve Alford is also generating some excitement for Tuesday’s game. The Lobos have three home games left, one of them against 25th-ranked San Diego State.