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UT completes feasibility study on $106M Neyland upgrade

Wednesday, Oct 19, 2016

Tennessee completed a feasibility study for future renovations to Neyland Stadium, and athletic department officials Tuesday both expanded on the objectives for the project's $106 million initial phase and stressed that it would not drastically alter the stadium's capacity.

Brett Huebner, a senior associate athletic director for business operations, didn't offer a specific total but did say 100,000 seats will be retained. He said the process affirmed the figure to be important not only to the fans but also for the program's identity.

"We're part of a small amount of schools that can make that claim," Huebner said during a news conference at the Ray and Lucy Hand digital studio.

Preserving a six-figure capacity apparently means sweating such smaller details as the amount of chair-back seats. Chris Fuller, a senior associate athletic director for development/external relations, described the process with the process as "a balancing act."

"I think what you're juggling is where can we improve seat amenities and how does that align with the overall capacity of the stadium," Fuller said. "And what we think we value, and what we think our fans value.

"I'd love to be in a situation where we could chair-back all the seats on both sidelines. However, we can't do it and maintain a capacity that I really think is important to the psyche of our fan base."

The initial phase, which is slated to begin between the 2018 and 2019 football seasons, will include renovating the south ground level and relocating the visitors' locker room. A back wall will be shifted to create more space as a safety measure, and the south concourse will be renovated from the ground up.

There also will be kitchen and commissary additions, hospitality area upgrades and a handrail expansion in the upper bowl.

Along with relocating the visitors' locker room, Huebner said opposing teams will be redirected through an expanded entrance in the "southeast area" of the stadium rather than walking through the field and tunnel in the south end zone.

The project will address infrastructure in the west side of the lower bowl, which dates to the stadium's opening in 1921.Huebner said the work is challenging based on the stadium's age and its previous 16 renovations.

"What still has value that you want to keep, versus taking out and replace," he said. "It gets very complicated."

The university's board of trustees last week approved an initial phase of the project, which will cost $106 million and will be funded by donor gifts and athletic department operating revenues. The proposal next goes before the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and eventually will require legislative approval.

Huebner said there will be two more phases of renovation, but scheduling and funding have not been determined. Regarding donations and the naming of any specific segments of these projects, Fuller said "rest assured" that the stadium's name won't change.

"The groundwork has been laid for proceeding with a much anticipated investment in Neyland Stadium," athletic director Dave Hart said in a university release.

The study took nine months and was led by Populous, which the release described as a global leader in sports architecture and design.

 

Source : knoxnews.com

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