Neyland Stadium would be nucleus of new entertainment district

Published 11:42 am Tuesday, May 23, 2023

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As Tennessee Athletics continues to aggressively pursue its mission of leading the way in college sports, University of Tennessee, Knoxville Vice Chancellor/Director of Athletics Danny White has initiated the exploration of a public-private partnership aimed at the development of a first-in-class entertainment district spanning the Tennessee River waterfront near historic Neyland Stadium.

Anchored by a planned hotel adjacent to the stadium’s south end, the mixed-use Neyland Entertainment District could uniquely enhance the Tennessee football gameday experience while also transforming the campus riverfront and supplementing Knoxville’s array of gathering centers with yet another attractive leisure and entertainment hub.

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The university’s initial concept for the project — which would improve the aesthetics of Neyland Stadium’s exterior façade and strengthen campus’s connection with the Tennessee River—includes a boutique, full-service hotel with for-sale condominiums and 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 entertainment activities.

A formal Request for Information (RFI) has been issued to gauge input and interest from developers.

“Innovation is at the forefront of everything we do,” White said. “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 maximize 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 gamedays but also elevates the everyday academic experience of our entire student body and campus community year-round.”

The university has engaged program management firm Brailsford & Dunlavey as a guiding partner in the Neyland Entertainment District exploratory phase.

“Neyland Stadium has always been known for having one of the best gameday environments in college football,” Chancellor Donde Plowman said. “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.”

Since 1993, Brailsford & Dunlavey has empowered hundreds of colleges and universities, municipalities and professional sports organizations to achieve their bold visions through the built environment. The firm’s advisory expertise includes analytical and technical activities, ranging from market analysis and financial modeling to development structure evaluation and construction oversight.

“This public-private partnership opportunity will enhance the look and atmosphere of Neyland Stadium and the Knoxville campus while creating an additional destination for the city of Knoxville, all without state funding,” University of Tennessee President Randy Boyd said.

The centerpiece of this grand vision, Neyland Stadium, stands as one of the most iconic venues in global sport. It is the eighth-largest stadium in the world—sixth among venues in its category—boasting a capacity of 101,915. Neyland Stadium is surrounded by key ingredients to unlocking a first-in-class mixed-use entertainment district:

• UT has experienced a 17-percent growth in enrollment over the last five years.

• The university has an alumni base exceeding 260,000.

• The University of Tennessee’s annual impact on the state economy is $1.7 billion.

• Greater Knoxville is situated at the crossroads of three major interstates, I-75, I-40 and I-81, in the center of Tennessee’s east grand division. The city is located within one day’s drive of half the nation’s population.

• Knoxville is within an eight-hour drive of Asheville, Atlanta, Charleston (S.C.), Charlotte, Chattanooga, Cincinnati, Louisville (Ky.), Memphis, Nashville, St. Louis and Washington DC.

• Knoxville was one of the nation’s top five booking markets in the first half of 2022, alongside Atlanta, Nashville, Washington DC and New York City.

• Knoxville features multiple unique micro-market gathering centers, including The Strip, The Old City, Market Square, Bearden, Turkey Creek and others.

• Tennessee Athletics is a globally recognized and respected brand featuring one of the most tradition-rich, championship-laden histories in college sports.

• UT’s ticketed sports consistently ranking among the national leaders in average home attendance.