On Wednesday, it was announced that the Tennessee Volunteers are about to be adding to their gameday experience. The University of Tennessee is in the early stages of developing what is called the Neyland Entertainment District that will connect its sporting venues — which could totally revolutionize the live college sporting experience.
This has to be not only exciting news for Tennessee Volunteers fans but the college football community as a whole with the potential for what this could mean for the sport overall.
Neyland Stadium, home of the Tennessee Volunteers football team, is considered one of the greatest college football atmospheres in the country. The atmosphere that the 100,000+ fans bring on Saturdays in the fall is next to none. Of course, you can’t forget Thompson-Boiling Arena, home of the Tennessee Basketball team. Besides basketball, it also holds other entertainment events throughout the year.
Ole Rocky Top is already an experience to be had in its own right, but with this news of a possible addition of an entertainment complex connecting to it, this will set a new precedent where many are likely (and should) follow in college sports.
“Think an LA Live type set up for college, which is believed to [be] the first on a college campus,” ESPN College Football Senior Writer Pete Thamel reported on Twitter.
L.A. Live is the entertainment complex adjacent to Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles. It’s not the only one, though. Across the country you’ll now see a lot of the professional teams across most leagues adapting to this concept. In St. Louis, you have Ballpark Village, connected to the St. Louis Cardinals’ Busch Stadium, which holds Bally Sports Live. In Arlington, there’s Texas Live, which is surrounded by Globe-Life Field, home of the Texas Rangers, and AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys and Choctaw Stadium, home of the XFL’s Dallas Renegades.
The latest is the Atlanta Braves’ newest stadium that opened in 2017. The Braves’ old stadium, Turner Field, was not only in a bad part of town, but lacked any and all food or entertainment options. Now, with Truist Park, they have The Battery, which houses many shopping venues and restaurants, along with other forms of live entertainment.
With a growing passion for fans to have the best sporting experiences from the comfort of their own homes now with high-definition television, live, in-game reporting and analysis, consistent internet connection and more, sports teams are now looking for ways to bring fans back to their stadiums and arenas.
While downtown Knoxville certainly isn’t like most other college towns that lack entertainment and food options around its stadium, the University of Tennessee forethought to recognize that there’s a growing need to keep fans coming back to their events.
Gameday experiences just aren’t enough anymore. As wild and as popular as somewhere like Knoxville can be for Tennessee Volunteers’ fans, staying ahead of the curve by continuing to enhance or even offer further options for gameday experiences is essential. Because the university isn’t just looking to fill its 100,000+ for the football stadium or the 20,000+ for its basketball arena. They want thousands more on the outside taking in the experience in a different way. Or, to put it plainly — spending money.
It’ll be interesting to see how other universities react to this and if they will follow suit. The problem that most of the universities will have, though, is the lack either of funding or surroundings areas to build such infrastructures. Some of these college towns are in the middle of nowhere and would simply have no way to provide this sort of thing. This could be yet another advantage to recruiting as well.