In the 80’s the American economy was roaring due to Reaganomics. More wealth was being created than at any time since our country’s founding. The citizenry had expendable income and they were using it on cars, boats, mansions, and fine furs. Nowhere was the impact of this high-rolling lifestyle more visible than in that venerable old college football cathedral known officially as Neyland Stadium. Johnny had marched home and led the BIG ORANGE to a shot-heard-round-the-world victory over the cocky and hated Hurricanes of Miami. Beano Cook was predicting a National Champion for Knoxville. And tickets were as precious and rare as diamonds and gold. Sellout crowd after sellout crowd would cram into the massive structure and ROAR the Vols to victory, Saturday after Saturday. It was truly a spectacular time to be a Vol fan.
That was then, this is now.
In the age of cheap high definition television and lucrative tv contracts, it is no longer feasible or sensible for colleges and universities to maintain stadiums that seat 80, 90, or (in the case of Neyland Stadium) over 100 thousand people. Attendance is suffering throughout the country due to the Obamaconomy, soaring gas prices, and the ability to watch the game in stunning high definition from your own home. In general people also appear to be lazier and fatter than ever although I cannot quantify this with statistics. Need tickets to high profile games like UGA or Florida? Tyrone has you a pair in the dry FO FREE (well, almost). Need tickets to the lower profile games like Austin Peay? LMFAO
To be fair, Tennessee fans have had an abysmal decade; possibly the worst of any team in any sport on any continent. It couldn’t be easy for the average worker to pay for gas, concessions, and admission to see Derek Dooley limping along the sideline barking out whatever instructions cause a team to lose in spectacular fashion. However, my nostalgia-tinted memory tells me that we had some mediocre teams in the 80’s but still sold out the stadium with regularity. I am using that evidence to draw a conclusion that attendance is down and will not likely return.
So what do you do with a stadium which is configured for 100 thousand people, but will likely only be accommodating 60 thousand for peak capacity moving forward? This is where the experience becomes great again……….My recommendations are as follows:
- Remove all bleachers and chairs containing metal seat surfaces from the stadium
- Reduce capacity to 55 thousand persons, or 60 thousand standing room only
- Install large, comfortable faux leather recliners throughout the stadium.
- Increase ticket prices to $200 per person, per game. The less fortunate already have a ticket. It’s called a remote control.
- Allow an all-inclusive option for fans. For the sake of discussion, let’s charge $300 per ticket on the all-inclusive plan. Sodexho will provide you with unlimited concessions throughout the game and a personal “section butler” complete with pager to deliver your snacks at your whim. For an additional charge, micro-rooms are available for napping or for retiring from the hot sun to watch the big game inside in air-conditioned comfort
- Cirque de Soleil at halftime, everytime
- Warm (or cool – your preference) facial towels at the end of the third quarter for every fan
- Bobby Denton’s harsh, militaristic voice will be replaced be the soothing tones of the Delta Airlines lady
These are just a few of the suggested changes I would like to see as Neyland Stadium continues to evolve. Fans are changing and so should the venues. We are softer and more relaxed and we deserve a soft, relaxing atmosphere. Go Vols!