The University of Tennessee (UT) has opted to postpone a $340m (£261.6m/€297.7m) redevelopment project for Neyland Stadium in an effort to reassess plans for one of the world’s largest stadia.
UT signed off on a two-phase redevelopment of the 102,037-capacity stadium in November 2017, but there has since been an overhaul in senior management at the university and its athletics department.
Director of Athletics John Currie was removed from his position in December, while Chancellor Beverly Davenport was fired in May and President Joe DiPietro is due to retire. In a statement released yesterday, Currie’s replacement, Phillip Fulmer, said: “I have been here 10 months and have studied this major project with everyone concerned.
“I think it is financially prudent and most responsible to delay the start of construction as we allow Audiology and Speech Pathology, currently in South Stadium Hall, to move in an orderly manner. It also allows us not to have additional expense and time pressures on both the university and athletics.
“We simply need time to study all ideas of scope and design as we seek to maximise the fan experience and our return on investment for the next 100 years of Neyland Stadium. Tennessee has always been committed to having the top facilities in the country, and a review of the project allows for more time to ensure just that.”
The $180m first phase of the project was expected to include expansion and renovation of the south concourses of the Knoxville-based stadium, which is primarily used to host American football games. Other improvements were set to include new restrooms and concession stands in the south concourses, as well as new entry towers/gates and plaza areas in the southwest and southeast corners of Neyland Stadium, and construction of a kitchen and commissary to enable on-site catering.
The university also planned to improve the stadium exterior to better integrate the stadium into the architectural fabric of the campus, as well as adjust the south end zone field wall to improve player safety and conform to National Collegiate Athletic Association guidelines.
Phase One was due to be “substantially completed” by August 2020, with the entire project to be finished for the 2021 season, marking the stadium’s 100th anniversary. Fulmer told the Knoxville News Sentinel newspaper that he hoped construction could begin “within the next year or so, no more than two,” adding that the delay doesn’t relate to financing. “Private donations have exceeded $50m for the stadium project, and we have not gone public yet,” Fulmer said.
Fulmer added that talks have taken place concerning how Neyland Stadium can be used for more than just home football games, potentially creating further revenue-generating opportunities for the university.
Image: Tennessee Athletics