Barbara “Mother” Hubbard is working to build an open-air venue that will draw in even more internationally famous performers to Las Cruces.
“If I could get everybody to believe in it… …we could BUILD IT.”
From Barbara Hubbard’s long-time home on the West Mesa, you can see all the way across the Mesilla Valley to A Mountain and the Organs. Almost in their shadow lies the site of her new dream for Las Cruces: a 55-acre, open-air amphitheater and events center with more than 20,000 seats that would provide opportunities for young people in the performing arts industry. The venue would also draw in the kinds of internationally famous acts that Barbara spent much of her adult life booking into the Pan American Center a few miles away.
Barbara, who turned 91 in July, is busy raising $45 million for the project, which, if all goes according to plan, could be open in less than two years near the intersection of Dripping Springs Road and the future extension of Sonoma Ranch Boulevard.
“I want to get back in the game,” says Barbara, who opened the doors of the Pan Am in 1968. Award winning country music hall-of-famer Charley Pride was the first act Hubbard officially booked at Pan Am. “Then I started tracking everybody down,” she remembers.
As New Mexico State University’s director of special events from 1975-96, Barbara brought performers like Bob Hope (who gave her the nickname “Mother Hubbard”), Red Skelton, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, The Eagles, KISS, and Neil Diamond to sold out audiences at the Pan Am. And she has continued a relationship with NMSU since her retirement, maintaining her busy career as a promoter. Last year, she brought country music icon Garth Brooks to Las Cruces for five sold-out concerts.
With the “King of Country” George Strait as honorary chair of the amphitheater project, and endowments from the likes of Brooks and Dunn and Reba McEntire, Barbara is on her way to making her latest dream a reality. She’s also planning to invite Strait to “baptize” the new facility as its first performer.
She’s had conversations about the project with companies like events promoter and venue operator Live Nation and music industry giant Irving Azoff’s Oak View Group.
“If I could get everybody to believe in it,” Barbara says, “we could build it.”
According to Barbara’s business plan, the multi-use amphitheater complex would seat 21,000 people and provide space for major concert attractions, collegiate rodeo events, and festivals on the northeast corner of the NMSU campus. The site would also be “a nucleus for NMSU’s world-class educational program in venue management and entertainment-related fields,” according to the business plan.
Barbara’s former students have gone on to work for Bruce Springsteen, Justin Timberlake, Phish, and others, and she wants to provide those same opportunities to even more NMSU graduates. Helping students succeed in the business has been one of her most important goals since she joined NMSU as a physical education instructor in 1964. That continued after athletic director and head basketball coach Lou Henson hired her as the first female business manager of NMSU’s athletic department in 1968.
In 1978, Hubbard created the nonprofit American Collegiate Talent Showcase that has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars “for performing arts college students on stage and behind the scenes,” according to centerfornonprofitexcellence.org.
Barbara has received many honors over the last five decades, including Pollstar Magazine’s first-ever lifetime achievement award, Billboard magazine’s Golden Circle Award, Venue Today magazine’s first Women of Influence Award, and NMSU’s thirdever Presidential Medallion, which she received in 2017.
She got the idea for the amphitheater project while watching former NMSU Rodeo Coach Jim Brown plowing and removing boulders for a rodeo event near the Aggie football stadium.
“Jim,” she told him, “I’m gonna build you a rodeo arena.”
With her strong faith in God as a guide, Barbara continues to push forward with her dream. She says, “I believe He’s not going to call me until I get this plan done.”
With the “King of Country” George Strait as honorary chair of the amphitheater project,
and endowments from the likes of Brooks and Dunn and Reba McEntire, Barbara is on her way to making her latest dream a reality.