Neyland Stadium – Tennessee Volunteers
Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86
Neyland Stadium Phillip Fulmer Way Knoxville, TN 37996
Year Opened: 1921 Capacity: 102,455
Rockin’ On Rocky Top
One of the NCAA’s most famous and largest stadiums is found along the shoreline of the Tennessee River in Knoxville, Tennessee. Neyland Stadium towers over all the buildings around it and has a capacity of 102,455. This makes it the 5th largest stadium in the US, the 6th largest in the world and the 2nd largest in the Southeastern Conference. Since opening in 1921 it has been a very intimidating place to play for opponents, as the Vols have a 77% home winning percentage, and 13 SEC Championships, along with 6 National Championships.
Since 1921 the stadium has undergone 16 renovations, eventually enclosing what was a horseshoe shaped stadium. It has also continued to elevate the bleachers, while also adding premium seating opportunities in its 120 suites. (For the most part, seating is on aluminum benches, so bringing a seat cushion along is advised!)
Neyland Stadium is named for Robert Neyland, the Volunteers coach from 1926-1952, with several breaks for military service. Neyland began his coaching career as a part-time coach with a fulltime position in the ROTC Department as a Captain. He ended his career as a legendary coach and a full Brigadier General. His statue is located just inside the Main Gate of the stadium.
Food & Beverage 3
Like other super-sized sports facilities Neyland Stadium has challenges when it comes to food concessions. When you have more than 102,000 guests coming to your picnic…. do you go with having enough of the basics, or try to provide more variety of foods? The Vols choose to keep their menus basic. You can expect to find hot dogs, hamburgers, pretzels, popcorn, bottled water and Coca-Cola brand products at nearly every stand. There are a few stands providing individual local favorites such as Pero’s Pizza or Calhoun’s BBQ. There are no alcoholic beverages sold at Neyland Stadium. Prices for the concessions are very reasonable compared to other SEC stadiums.
The current building campaign to improve Tennessee’s athletic venues includes improving concessions as one of its priorities. The goal is two have one concession stand per every 250 people in the stadium. This should reduce the wait times that are now the norm at Vols games.
Neyland Stadium offers one of the best game day atmospheres in the NCAA, as it offers so many unique traditions. Before the game is even whistled into action, you can’t help but notice the orange and white checkerboard design in both end zones, the entry of the team through the “power T formation” formed by the Pride of the Southland Band and at least several renditions of “Rocky Top,” the Vol Nation’s unofficial anthem. The fan base is also known for its ability to replicate the orange and white checkerboard pattern in cue during breaks in the game.
The University of Tennessee campus is adjacent to the downtown area of Knoxville and the Tennessee River. This means most of the attractions, dining and lodging options are within walking distance of Neyland Stadium. Two attractions that should be on your list are the World’s Fair Park with its Sunsphere Tower and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
There are two restaurants near the stadium that come highly recommended. Calhoun’s on the River is a Knoxville institution with great views of the river through its windows. If you prefer a craft beer with your meal, then head over to Downtown Grill and Brewery. For lodging, you can’t go wrong with either the Four Points Sheraton Knoxville or the Knoxville Marriott. Leave your car at the hotel and just walk to the game.
Tennessee fans are known for their loudness… both in volume and attire. Look for all manner of orange outfits (including checkerboard white and orange bib jeans). They really play a major role in disrupting the visiting teams calling of signals and sending in of plays from the bench. Even a relatively quiet fan, when multiplied by 102,000, adds up to quite a distraction. Vol fans never tire of singing “Rocky Top” every time the Pride of the Southland Band starts playing it. Visiting fans have nothing to fear from the Vol faithful, as they are known for exhibiting their true Southern hospitality.
Tennessee fans have plenty of activities to enjoy prior to each game. The Volunteer Village Fan Fest opens 3 ½ hours prior to kickoff, the Vol Walk occurs two hour and fifteen minutes before the game and the Pride of the Southland Band marches down Volunteer Boulevard 90 minutes prior to kickoff. The Tennessee tail and sailgating experience is legendary in the SEC.
Neyland Stadium’s proximity to the Tennessee River offers a unique opportunity for pre-game gatherings. The “Vol Navy” consists of more than 200 boats that dock along Volunteer landing and take part in “sailgating” parties. Tennessee is one of only three college stadiums in the country with extremely proximity to a body of water.
As you can imagine, with more than 100,000 fans descending on Knoxville on game day, things can be very crowded as far as access. Fans arrive by plane, boat and automobile and space their arrival out beginning on Friday mornings to avoid the gridlock. The parking decks and parking lots immediately surrounding the stadium are reserved for major donors and season ticket holders.
To handle the crowds, the University works very closely with the city of Knoxville and the area Transit Authority to provide off-site parking with shuttle service to the stadium. The prices for the parking vary depending on distance from the stadium. The shuttle service costs $15 round trip. To identify potential parking spaces before you go to Knoxville, go to www.knoxparking.com. Some of the larger lots can be found at the Coliseum, the Old City section and the Market Square areas of Knoxville.
On the good side, another shade of orange (traffic cones) has become much less prevalent on area freeways. The massive construction project at I-40/I-75 has been completed after several years of detours and frustrated drivers. To get to the stadium area, take the Neyland Drive (Hwy 153) exit from either I-40 East or West. Head toward Thompson-Boling Arena, head up the steep hill on Lake Loudon Boulevard. Then turn right onto Phillip Fulmer Way.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets to Volunteer home games fall in two price ranges: $30-$65 for non-SEC contests and $40-$85 for an SEC contest. Games against Alabama and the University of Georgia typically sell out and typically will sell on the secondary ticket market for premium prices. Shuttle busses cost $15 round trip and parking can range from $20-$30 depending on location. Hotels in Knoxville are all booked and very expensive on game weekends. Your best bet is to stay in one of the many hotels in the Gatlinburg area, which will be much cheaper and is not located too far from Knoxville.
Twenty-four former Tennessee players are now enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.
The numbers of Johnny Majors (#45), Reggie White (#92) and Peyton Manning’s #16 have all been retired by the University of Tennessee.
One of sport’s most iconic broadcasters was a graduate of the University and served for many years in the Vols athletic department. Lindsey Nelson began his career as an announcer at Tennessee sports events and went on the be enshrined in the Halls of Fame for virtually every major sport. The Tennessee baseball stadium is named in his honor.
Smokey X now rules the sidelines as Tennessee’s live mascot. He is a blue tick hound that is commonly used for hunting in Tennessee.
Neyland Stadium is one of the most easily recognized college stadiums in the country. From its idyllic perch on a bluff overlooking the Tennessee River, to its checkerboard end zones, you immediately know you are in Volunteer territory. Even if you are not a Tennessee fan, you’ll finding yourself humming the Rocky Top tune long after you have left this 102,000-seat venue!