By Christina Calloway
Valerie Mestas is excited to know that in a couple of years, she’ll be watching the Eastern New Mexico University Greyhounds play at a stadium in Portales with her son, an updated experience she wants to share from her childhood.
“My parents went to school here, so growing up, I got to go to the games,” Mestas, a junior from Roswell, said about her family ties to the school. “I just think it’s a really good thing for the town. More people are going to come here.”
Mestas was part of the 83 percent of the 1,275 full-time students who voted in favor of student fees to be used toward building a $8 million multi-purpose football stadium on campus in an online election this week. The news was announced Friday night at a ENMU homecoming bonfire pep rally.
The successful election means students have pledged to pay for half of the stadium’s cost through student fees, replacing the 45-year-old outdated stadium at Blackwater Draw. Approximately 57 percent of ENMU’s 5,800 record enrollment were eligible to vote.
“I’m excited. I think it’s something we can all be proud of because it can change our university forever,” said ENMU student government President Justin Aguilar.
Full-time students will pay $40 a semester for the next 30 years. Part-time students, who per a student government decision were not allowed to vote, will also share the bill at a cost of $3.33 per credit hour.
“We are very pleased with the vote, this indicates overwhelming support for the stadium initiative by our students,” said ENMU President Steven Gamble. “Our next step is to start raising the remaining money we need to complete the stadium’s goal of $8 million.”
ENMU football coach Josh Lynn was already on a high, energized for today’s homecoming game, but the news of the new stadium pushed him to cloud nine.
“I feel great. This whole week was nerve-wrecking. You just never know how the vote’s gonna go,” Lynn said. “We did our part with the voting so to hear the news tonight, it was great news and not just for ENMU, but for the town as well.”
Lynn is motivated to use the new stadium as a recruiting tool.
“It’s not every year you get a new facility. There’s a lot of coaches and players who would love a new stadium,” Lynn said. “We’re real fortunate.”
Not everyone was happy with the vote though.
Senior Renan Fernandes of Brazil said he voted against the new stadium because ENMU has better athletic programs that it could spend money on.
“I believe the football team is not the best,” Fernandes said. “It’s not a good investment and I’ve asked (Gamble) for more funding for the other programs.”
Now that students have secured half of the stadium’s cost, Gamble said the Portales schools Board of Education will be asked to pay a quarter of the remaining cost. Portales students will also use the facility for their athletic programs.
He has plans to meet with Portales schools officials Monday.
ENMU will also pay $1 million and the ENMU Foundation is responsible to raise the rest.
Gamble said at the ENMU Board of Regents meeting Friday that the project’s start depends on how quickly ENMU can raise the additional money because the state requires ENMU to have money in hand.
“We hope once we have all the $8 million available that it would be approximately 12 months from that date that we can open the new stadium,” Gamble said.
Aguilar feels students looked at the big picture and thought about how a positive vote would affect more than just them.
“They’re not really proud of Blackwater Draw,” Aguilar said. “I think it’s really cool that ENMU students decided to make a sacrifice to better the university.”