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Design & Development

University of Tennessee planning entertainment district next to Neyland Stadium

Featured image credit: University of Tennessee

The University of Tennessee’s athletics department has detailed plans to explore the development of an entertainment district that would span the Tennessee River waterfront near Neyland Stadium.

Danny White, vice-chancellor and director of athletics at the University of Tennessee, has initiated the exploration of a public-private partnership to oversee the development, which would be anchored by a hotel adjacent to the south end of Neyland Stadium.

Neyland Stadium has a capacity of 101,915 and serves as the home of the university’s American football team, the Volunteers. The mixed-use district would seek to enhance the game-day experience for Volunteers fans, while transforming the riverfront and supplementing the city of Knoxville’s gathering centres with a leisure and entertainment hub.

The project would improve the aesthetics of Neyland Stadium’s exterior façade and strengthen the university’s connection with the Tennessee River. Initial concepts include a boutique, full-service hotel with for-sale condominiums and a conference/event space.

The vision also features the potential development of a “tabletop” above the existing G10 parking garage to support additional tailgating, restaurants, retail and family-friendly activities.

A formal request for information has been issued to gauge input and interest from developers. The University of Tennessee has engaged programme management firm Brailsford & Dunlavey as a guiding partner in the Neyland Entertainment District exploratory phase.

White said: “Innovation is at the forefront of everything we do. The ideation of this new Neyland Entertainment District exemplifies that mindset. This is a massive project that has the potential to positively impact our entire city.

“We’re eager to see what world-class developers dream up to creatively maximise this extraordinary market opportunity. We have the capacity for constructing an entertainment ecosystem that doesn’t presently exist anywhere across the collegiate landscape.

“This is far greater than an activation on seven or eight days a year. This is a year-round destination that not only enhances our game days but also elevates the everyday academic experience of our entire student body and campus community year-round.”

Chancellor Donde Plowman added: “Neyland Stadium has always been known for having one of the best game-day environments in college football. We love to welcome Vol Nation to campus on Saturdays in the fall. This project has the potential to create a year-round destination that engages the Tennessee River waterfront and enhances the campus and our community.”

The University of Tennessee pointed to other successful entertainment districts that have been built through public-private partnerships, including Gallagher Way (Chicago) and The Battery (Atlanta).

Neyland Stadium is the eighth-largest stadium in the world. An entertainment district would connect the stadium to the nearby Thompson-Boling Arena, home to the university’s basketball and volleyball teams.

The stadium itself is already in the midst of a major renovation project. Last June, the university’s board of trustees approved a request from its athletics department to adjust the scope and budget of the project.

The revised project requires a total budget increase of $108m (£87m/€100m), resulting in an overall Phase 1 budget of $288m, which will be fully funded. The estimated total budget at the time of the 2017 approval was $340m.