Neyland Stadium

Neyland Stadium is a sports stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee. It serves primarily as the home of the Tennessee Volunteers football team, but is also used to host large conventions and has been a site for several NFL exhibition games with the last between the Washington Redskins and Houston Oilers during the Oilers transition to Nashville in 1998. After 79 years and 16 expansion projects, Neyland Stadium peaked at an official maximum capacity of 104,079 seats. Capacity was reduced to 102,037 with the addition of the new East Club seats in 2006. Due to the addition of the new West Club seats in 2009, the capacity was lowered to 100,011. In 2010, the Tennessee Terrace was added raising stadium capacity to 102,455 people. This makes it the third largest non-racing stadium in the United States and the sixth largest non-racing stadium in the world.


Neyland Stadium was first conceived in 1919 by Andrew Poyar and Col. W.S. Shields, president of Knoxville's City National Bank and a University of Tennessee trustee, provided the initial capital to prepare and equip an athletic field. Thus, when the original stadium—the lower level of the current stadium's West Stands—was completed in March 1921, it was called Shields-Watkins Field in honor of the donor and his wife, Alice Watkins-Shields. However, the project ran out of funds and was unfinished temporarily until MacGregor Smith ('21) suggested at a meeting of the University's Scarabbean Senior Society that the students and faculty finish the project together. At the group's behest, two days were used and the students and faculty finished the field. An invitational track meet was then held as a celebration and thus became the very first event at Neyland Stadium.

In 1962, the stadium was renamed Neyland Stadium in honor of former athletic director and coach General Robert Neyland. Neyland, the man credited with making the Vols a national football power, coached the team from 1926–1952, with two interruptions for military service. Shortly before his death, he spearheaded the stadium's first major expansion. The plans were so far ahead of their time that they have been used in every expansion since then. The playing surface is still named Shields–Watkins Field.

The latest additions to the facility is the bricking of the field while removing the previous hedges, also added are the all-new home locker room, press room, and varsity room. In 2006 the East Club Seats were added, bringing capacity down to 102,037 from 104,079. For the 2009 season, the university added west club-level seats which brought capacity down to 100,011. The stadium is in the middle of Phase III of a 5 phase renovation project. Phase III is scheduled for completion in 2010. Once Phase V is completed, the stadium's official capacity will exceed 101,000.

On April 8, 2009, it was announced that Neyland Stadium was one of the 70 stadia named for the United States' bid to either the 2018 or 2022 World Cup

Stadium growth

Shields-Watkins Field opened in 1921 with a single west grandstand with a capacity of 3,200. The east stands were added five years later, in 1926, to increase capacity to 6,800. The west stands were increased from 17 rows to 42 rows in 1929, increasing capacity to 17,860.

In 1937, a small row of seats (called "Section X") was added across the north endzone, adding an additional 1,500 seats. The next year, in 1938, the east stands were expanded to 44 rows. The capacity after these expansions was 31,390.

In 1948, another expansion of the stadium was begun, that resulted in the south endzone being enclosed in a horseshoe style (see Harvard Stadium for an example). This expansion added 15,000 seats, and total capacity was 46,290.

Several expansions were undertaken in the 1960s. First, in 1962, the west upper deck was added, including 5,837 seats and a press box. Also in 1962, the stadium was renamed Neyland Stadium. In 1966, Section X in the north endzone was replaced by a grandstand that seated 5,895, and in 1968, an east upper deck that seated 6,307 was added. The total capacity was 64,429.

The two upper decks were connected to enclose the south endzone during two expansions in 1972 and 1976. The 1972 expansion extended the west upper deck to the south by 6,221 seats, and the 1976 expansion extended the east upper deck to the south by 9,600, completely enclosing the south upper deck, and increasing total capacity to 80,250.

In 1980, the north endzone was enclosed in a bowl style (see Rose Bowl and Yale Bowl for examples). Several suites were added in 1987, and a seating adjustment in 1990 increased capacity to a total of 91,902.

In 1996, the last expansion was completed, enclosing the north upper deck and increasing capacity by 10,642. Two more seating adjustments were completed in 1997 and 2000, topping total capacity at 104,037 in 2000. Club seats were added in 2006 and 2009 that actually decreased total capacity to 100,011.

With the addition of the Tennessee Terrace in 2010, capacity for Neyland Stadium has risen back to 102,455.

Shields-Watkins Field

From 1921 to the end of the 1967 season the field surface was natural grass.

1964 saw the addition of the now famous checkerboard end zones done in orange and white. This was one of the many changes initiated by new head coach Doug Dickey, who also added the 'T' logo to the football helmet and had the team run onto the field through the 'T' formed by The Pride of the Southland Marching Band, and moved the Tennessee bench from the east side line to the west side line.

In 1968, coinciding with the addition of the East Upper Deck, Tennessee-Turf (Astro-Turf) was installed as the playing surface. One of the reasons being that there was not adequate drainage during heavy rains. The checkerboard end zones were initially not included as part of the Tennessee-Turf playing surface. End zone designs used through the years on the artificial surface included having TENNESSEE and VOLUNTEERS in orange turf lettering and the end zone green turf, or having the same design but with the endzones in orange turf with white turf lettering. The end zones, as well as the mid-field logo were unique in that they were separate pieces of contrasting turf rather than painted turf. The artificial surface, as many from this era, was blamed for excessive leg injuries.

In 1989, the orange and white checkerboard endzones were brought back, along with an interlocking 'UT' at the 50-yard line.

1993 saw the final game on the artificial surface, a 62-14 win over Vanderbilt. Afterwards the surface was ripped up and sections were auctioned off to raise funds for the university.

Natural grass returned to Shields-Watkins field in 1994. The checkerboard end zones and mid-field logo were carried over. In 1997, the interlocking 'UT' was replaced with the same Power T logo as seen on the football helmets. The grass used was Tiftway Bermuda.

In 2007, the entire surface was resodded for the first time since the transition from artificial turf. The new surface is Tifway Bermudagrass, and rests on a bed of 12 inches of sand, which allows for adequate drainage.


Over the last four seasons, Neyland Stadium has undergone several major renovations. Such renovations include the addition of the East and West Side Executive Club Seats, the Tennessee Terrace along the west sidelines, an all new brick façade with archway and amphitheater at Gate 21, bronze statue of General Neyland designed by Blair Buswell, and of course, the 4,500 sq/ft HD Jumbotron. Even though The Tennessee Terrace has decreased the overall seating capacity, it replaced the crowded, uncomfortable bleacher seats with thousands of chairback seats. All current renovations are expected to be completed by the 2010 season opener. The UT Athletic Department also recently announced plans for a new Football training center to be completed by 2012.

  • Images
  • North West Entrance atop Crosswalk

  • Amphitheater next to Alumni Memorial Building

  • West Side Press Box from Peyton Manning Pass

  • North West Entrance from ground level

  • West Side Press Box

Other facts
  • The Sporting News ranked Neyland Stadium as the nation's #1 college football stadium in a poll in the spring of 2001.
  • Sports Illustrated ranked Neyland Stadium, the University of Tennessee campus, and surrounding Knoxville as the best college football weekend experience in 2004.
  • Tennessee set a school-record by averaging 107,595 fans in 2000.
  • The university has averaged 105,176 fans over the past nine seasons, drawing nearly four million patrons during that span.
  • Neyland Stadium is known for its unique endzone paint scheme, the orange and white checkerboard pattern.
  • The majority of the UT's anthropology department's facilities, as well as those of the audiology department, are located inside the Neyland Stadium building, within the South Stadium Hall and East Stadium Hall areas.
  • Neyland Stadium is known for "sail-gating" (boat-based tailgating; Neyland is located adjacent to the Tennessee River). Sail-gaters are affectionately known as the "Volunteer Navy". Husky Stadium at the University of Washington is also known for this practice.
  • 2006 University of Tennessee Media Guide
  • History of Neyland Stadium Expansion
  • Neyland Stadium Info at
  • Anthropology Facilities


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