The University of Tennessee (UT) has outlined a revised year-by-year progress plan for its Neyland Stadium renovation project.
UT director of athletics Phillip Fulmer announced last November that development plans would be put on hold while a full review of the plan initially approved in 2017 was carried out.
The decision to pause the renovations process allowed the project team to review and confirm the scope elements and financial model associated with the project.
That review has resulted in a rigorously contemplated, highly prioritised and well-balanced design approach to meet a broader list of project goal and, ultimately, enhance the fan experience for the entire community in attendance on gamedays.
The new project goals include:
- Design a stadium exterior integrated into the campus fabric that embraces the objectives of the Campus Masterplan and the established architectural language of the university;
- Build new entry plazas in the southwest and southeast that create a cohesive exterior architecture while consolidating stadium entry for easier access, improved security and operational control;
- Expand the main south concourse to improve safety, functionality and fan comfort;
- Improve restrooms to comply with modern standards for number of fixtures, accessibility and ease of use by patrons;
- Increase the quantity of concession stands in the south end of the stadium while also upgrading food and beverage quality, selection and availability;
- Develop an on-site kitchen and commissary to enable catering service to designated points throughout the stadium;
- Create new and diverse seating alternatives and gathering spaces;
- Upgrade technology infrastructure and capabilities throughout the stadium—specifically addressing sound quality along with digital video displays;
The updated plan meets the requirements from the previous Board of Trustee approval and outlines specific improvement outcomes from 2019 through 2023. Fulmer said:
I appreciate the patience of our fans and donors as we’ve worked through a very thorough review of our plans to start preparing Neyland Stadium for its next 100 years of service.
I’m very pleased about where we’ve landed. It was important to me that the earliest work of the upcoming renovations focused on areas that impacted the fan experience for everyone in the stadium.
This fall, fans visiting Neyland Stadium have experienced a new, 360-degree LED ribbon board, as well as the opportunity to purchase alcoholic beverages. Another fan enhancement this season was the replacement of all cushioned seats for the more than 15,000 ticket holders who take advantage of that opportunity.
Next, the stadium’s sound system will be replaced and significantly upgraded prior to the 2020 football season. Fulmer added:
After addressing what we identified as immediate and key enhancements for all of our fans stadium-wide, the renovations then transition to other important features will positively impact program recruiting and fan comfort and enjoyment.
Upgrades for the fall of 2021—the stadium’s centennial—include a renovation of The Lauricella Center for Letter Winners and Wolf-Kaplan Hospitality Center, and the conversion of fifth-level media facilities on the stadium’s west side into a unique, open-air donor lounge. As a result, facilities for working press on gamedays will be relocated to the stadium’s east side, in closer proximity to the Stokely Family Media Center. Broadcast media—TV and radio crews—will remain in the current west-side location.
By the fall of 2022, the updated plans enable the completion of main level-one south concourse renovations, the addition of a north-side videoboard and the rebuilding of the lower-west-side seating deck.
This phase of substantial renovations concludes in the fall of 2023 when Tennessee unveils two redefining and fan-engaging plazas at Gate 4 and Gate 10. The latter will feature a signature indoor/outdoor gathering space and amenity area serving select food and beverages.
The overall exterior design will dramatically improve pedestrian traffic and stadium ingress and egress flow.
The project remains within the $180 million budget that was approved by the Board of Trustees in November of 2017. These renovations will continue to be made possible by a funding model that does not require any state funds or subsidies.
In addition to the impending improvements at Neyland Stadium, expansion and enhancements of Tennessee’s football facilities at Anderson Training Center also are on the horizon.