The Professional Bull Riders (PBR) have brought bull riding to some of the most famous venues in the nation in recent years–places well known to sports fans such as Madison Square Garden and Cowboys Stadium. However, the best venue in the country for the sport is The Pit on the campus of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.
One of the country’s loudest arenas, The Pit is the home of the UNM men’s and women’s basketball teams and has hosted many National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament games including the infamous 1983 National Championships in which Coach Jim Valvano’s North Carolina State University Wolfpack defeated the University of Houston.
The Pit opened in 1966 and has hosted over 12 million fans for UNM Lobos basketball games, representing an incredible 95% of its capacity during its long history. It is annually ranked one of the highest in attendance in NCAA basketball. In 1999 Sports Illustrated ranked The Pit 13th on their list of the Top 20 Sports Venues of the Century. The Pit is located on the southwest corner of Avenida Cesar Chaves and University Boulevard in southern Albuquerque.
The arena was built in a 37 foot hole in southern Albuquerque near the Sunport. Interestingly, the roof was built first and then the hole was dug to accomodate the arena. Because the arena was built with no supporting pillars, there are no obstructed views, from the top of the stadium, which is actually street level, to the bottom. A trip up the steep stairs will often leave spectators as breathless as the competition on the arena floor.
The PBR visits Albuquerque each March for the Ty Murray Invitational. In 2010 the event moved from Tingley Coliseum at the Fairgrounds to The Pit and the move has proved hugely popular and successful for fans and bull riders alike. The PBR reported that 25,000 fans attended the event in 2011.
The stadium provides maximum viewing of bull riding due to how close fans are to the action. Every seat, no matter how high, is right on top of the bucking chutes. Though the PBR is accustomed to small arenas, their set-up for The Pit is about half the size of their other events, leaving no margin for error by bullfighters and arena crew.
Just like UNM basketball games, the decibel level is extremely high during the PBR, particularly when New Mexico cowboys like LJ Jenkins and Travis Briscoe ride. Jenkins has twice won the event in 2008 and 2011. In addition, the PBR invites the top Native American champions to compete at the Ty Murray Invitational each year, a big hit with the large local Native American population.
The central location of Albuquerque itself also allows the PBR to bring all the best bucking bulls to the venue whether they are located in the eastern or the western part of the country. No other venue can boast of the bull power, other than the PBR World Finals.
Combining the best bulls with the best riders, in the loudest and most intimate setting that bull riding offers, makes The Pit the best venue for the sport.