For the 46th consecutive season, the New Mexico State men’s basketball team will call the Pan American Center home in 2013-14 and for over four decades now, opponents from around the nation have had to contend with both the Aggies and the challenging atmosphere of the Pan American Center. During the 2011-12 season, the Aggies unveiled a new floor. The new surface is a parquet floor with tradition design aspects.
Over the years, the Aggies and their fans have welcomed opponents to Las Cruces with fierceness and tenacity, both on the court and in the stands, the likes of which are hard to find elsewhere in college basketball. In 1998-99 and 1999-00, the Pan American Center was named the “Toughest Play to Play,” in the Big West Conference by Dick Vitale’s College Basketball Preview.
On Nov. 30, 1968, the Pan American Center first opened its doors to the New Mexico State basketball team as the Aggies ushered in the new era with a 95-89 defeat of Colorado State in the Pan American Center Dedication Tournament. The victory over the Rams began a remarkable tradition of excellence and winning at the Pan American Center. Since the 1968-69 season, the Aggies are an astonishing record of 546-146 in the Pan American Center, a winning percentage of 79 percent. In their 45 years of playing in the Pan American Center, the Aggies have posted winning records in all but two years, including a streak of 19-straight wining seasons from 1985-86 to 2003-04.
NM State has had four undefeated seasons at the Pan American Center, including a then-school-best 16-0 mark during the 1989-90 campaign. After posting a 15-1 record in their inaugural season at the Pan American Center, the Aggies registered back-to-back undefeated seasons at home with records of 15-0 and 14-0 in 1969-70 and 1970-71 respectively. The next season, NM State went 13-2 at home to end its first four seasons in the Pan American Center with an overall record of 57-2.
In 1978-79, the Aggies again recorded a mark of 13-2 and a year later, NM State notched its third undefeated season at the Pan American Center, going a perfect 14-0. After winning a then school-record 16 games at home during the 1989-90 campaign, the Aggies went 15-1 the next season as the Pan American Center set attendance records with 168,717 total fans and an average 10,545 fans per game.
In 2006-07, the Aggies set a program record for home wins in a season with 19 (19-1) as the team hosted and won its first WAC Tournament Championship.
The Pan American Center, which has hosted more than 13,000 fans for an Aggie basketball game 24 times since opening in 1968, has a seating capacity of 8,994 When the facility was constructed nearly four decades ago, the price tag on the facility was a monstrous $3.5 million and was part of a university-wide $22 million construction program that included the Corbett Center and two observatories on campus.
The Pan American Center, which was designed by W.C. Kruger and Associates of Santa Fe and is presently valued at considerably more than the construction price back in 1968, is one of the finest sports facilities in the southwest and one of the largest in the Rocky Mountain region.
On February 9, 2002, New Mexico State University honored former Aggie head coach Lou Henson by naming the basketball court in the Pan American Center ‘Lou Henson Court’
“I’m deeply humbled by this great honor. I have been blessed in many different ways in my life, now my cup runneth over. Outside of faith, family, and friends, the game of basketball has meant everything to me. To be recognized in this manner by my alma mater is very gratifying. I am most grateful to the NMSU Board of Regents and administrators for their generous actions.”
- Lou Henson