LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - Two nights. Four schools. One stadium. The cost: Eighty-thousand dollars.
Las Cruces Public Schools will pay that amount to rent Aggie Memorial Stadium for the Cruces/Mayfield and Oñate/Centennial football games this season, said Ernie Viramontes, Athletic Director for Las Cruces Public Schools.
"We know that's the cost we're going to face," Viramontes said. "It is NMSU. It is part of our community. I think that relationship between NMSU and the high schools should always be there."
The Las Cruces High vs. Mayfield High game has been held at Aggie Memorial Stadium since 1978, when NMSU build the stadium. The infamous rivalry has drawn national attention, even inspiring a documentary called Cruces Divided.
Last year, the rivalry attracted 15,000 fans, Viramontes said. Aggie Memorial Stadium has a capacity close to 29,000 seats.
"What a great traditionally established football game," Viramontes said.
This year, in addition to Friday's Mayfield vs. Cruces game, the district will also pay to have Oñate and Centennial face off in Aggie Memorial Stadium on Thursday.
"We thought, 'Well, let's see if we can get that with Oñate and Centennial,'" Viramontes said. " Viramontes said.
LCPS is calling that game the "Organ Mountain Rivalry."
"Let's really plan it to where we can make it worthwhile for both games," Viramontes said. "That way, we're successful with both games."
When asked to justify the district's spending on two football games at a time when the district is dealing with cuts to funding from the state, Viramontes said, "That’s the true reality of it right there. That’s what you’ve got to face - right - when there’s a budget crisis. Times are tough ... I always think positive - that we’re going to have good turnouts at both games."
Viramontes said the district will reevaluate the cost and benefit as it moves forward.
“Is it all worth it? You put all that aside. It’s all about the kids," Viramontes said, "How often anymore, in these days, do we get the families together with the grandmas and the grandpas? We just don’t do that anymore, so if we can do that for three or four hours, and forget about all the negative stuff that’s happening all around us everyday, to me, that’s worth it.”