The University of Tennessee (UT) has delved into the venue naming-rights market for the first time through a deal for Thompson-Boling Arena that will help finance renovations for the 21,678-seat facility.
Retail store chain Food City, a UT corporate partner since 1997, has agreed a 10-year contract worth in excess of $20m (£15.8m/€18.5m) that will see the on-campus arena rebranded as Thompson-Boling Arena at Food City Center.
Food City’s investment will aid what UT says is “new and needed” renovations of the arena and upgrades to the facility’s interior and exterior. The improvements aim to significantly enhance the fan experience.
Among the planned additions to the venue will include new club amenities, updates to the Ray Mears Room and a state-of-the-art centre-hung video board. The exterior façade of the facility will be modernised and the look will be more in line with Tennessee’s other athletics venues.
“We are thrilled to partner with Food City on this transformative naming-rights opportunity, the first of its kind for Tennessee Athletics,” said Tennessee vice-chancellor/director of athletics, Danny White.
“Food City is a neighbourhood partner who knows our state and region extremely well and has been a key partner for Tennessee Athletics for nearly 30 years. Food City is a valued member of our community and bleeds orange, and we look forward to taking this partnership to another level.”
Opened in 1987, Thompson-Boling Arena at Food City Center is home to Tennessee’s volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball programmes. The arena is named for the late B. Ray Thompson, who donated $5m towards the arena’s construction, and former UT president, Dr. Edward J. Boling.
The venue has undergone multiple phases of renovations throughout its 36-year history, most notably an overhaul in 2007 that included the addition of two levels of premium suites and one level of premium loge seating spanning the arena’s north end.
UT is currently embarking on multiple venue development projects and further naming-rights deals could be in the offing. Tennessee Athletics is set to move forward with plans to renovate Lindsey Nelson Stadium, home of its baseball team.
The project will increase the stadium’s seated capacity to approximately 7,600 fans and has been budgeted at $95.8m. Among the projected revenues was $8m through naming rights.
UT’s board of trustees last month approved a request from its athletics department to increase the budget for the first phase of a renovation project at Neyland Stadium.
The budget for the revamp of the stadium was increased by $49m to $337m. This came after the board of trustees last year approved a request to increase the Phase 1 budget to $288m.
The latest Phase 1 budget of $337m brings the project in line with the $340m estimated total budget price when the plans were initially approved in 2017. Neyland Stadium is the eighth-largest stadium in the world with a capacity of 102,000, but progress on the renovation project has stalled in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.