UT Board of Trustees approve $106M Neyland Stadium improvements

The renovations will address safety concerns including widening narrow hallways, replacing rails, and field improvement

KNOXVILLE - The University of Tennessee system Board of Trustees met Friday afternoon, with chairman Gov. Bill Haslam in attendance.

Ahead of that, throughout the day Thursday and Friday morning, members met in their respective committees and subcommittees.

NEYLAND STADIUM IMPROVEMENTS

Trustees approved recommended Neyland Stadium improvements.

Plans call for a $106 million renovation and expansion of Neyland Stadium, to be completed in time for the 2019 football season.

"This is the first time in many years we've sold all of our season tickets," UT chancellor Jimmy Cheek said.

It's no secret-- the Vols are a hot commodity, and Cheek said a stadium this popular is in need of improvements.

"It's also critical to us because in the SEC, it becomes more and more competitive every single year, and most of the SEC colleagues are doing some major renovations at their stadium to make the fan experience better," Cheek said.

The project focuses on the south end of the stadium and includes relocating the visitor locker room, addressing safety issues in the seating areas. 

Plans include improvements to bathrooms, corridors and concessions areas.

But, Cheek said, "we don't have plans to expand seating at this point in time."

Trustees' approval was just the first step. The state building commission needs to approve the plans, as well as the Tennessee General Assembly.

None of the Neyland Stadium improvements will be funded with taxpayer dollars. Money will come from sources like ticket sales, donor funding and the Department of Athletics.

PRIVATIZATION

At Thursday's Advancement and Public Affairs Committee, UT Knoxville student Elizabeth Stanfield and UT Knoxville employee Joel Rummage voiced their concerns about the privatization of facilities management for any state-owned facility.

RELATED: UT protesters take issue with Haslam's privatization plan

The state is exploring the possibility of offering the option to state-run entities to outsource facilities management services to private companies. Those services are maintenance and repair, custodial, and grounds-keeping.

"Real estate management is one of the state’s largest budget expenditure categories following health care, human service, transportation and education programs," a state website explaining the effort says.

State officials exploring this possibility say the privatization option of facilities management services would not result in job losses or pay decreases for people currently holding those jobs.

"Any potential contract with a professional service provider will require them to offer employment to all current facilities service state employees who pass background checks, verify work authorization and drug testing," the website says. "Employee compensation will not be less than a state employee's current salary and benefits...No current qualified and productive employee will lose their job because of a contract."

Those opposing the move, however, are concerned it will hurt workers' health care, pension and tuition waivers.

RELATED: UT workers stage rally ahead of DiPietro meeting

If state officials choose to move forward with this change, they say, the move will be optional, up to leaders at each facility to decide whether to go that route.

"The state has a diverse portfolio of over 7,500 aged buildings and facilities that are costly to maintain," the website says. "The goal of this process is to further explore opportunities to provide the best service at lowest cost."

EXECUTIVE HIRES, PROMOTIONS

On Friday morning, members of the Executive and Compensation Committee approved all of UT system president Joe DiPietro's various recommendations for executive hires and promotions.

The board approved all of these at its Friday afternoon meeting.

Tonjanita "Tonja" Johnson, the UT system's current vice president for communications and marketing, will become UT system executive vice president and chief operating officer. Her current salary is  $239,328. The promotion would increase her annual pay to $314,328, plus the continuation of a $5,000 annual non-accountable expense allowance. In addition, if DiPietro determines that "Johnson’s performance has exceeded expectations at the conclusion of her first year as EVP & COO," the recommendation says, "she will receive a $30,000 increase to her annual base pay."

Keith Carver, the system's current executive assistant to the president, will become UT Martin chancellor. That comes with an annual base salary of $300,000, a non-accountable expense allowance of $416.67 per month, a monthly housing allowance of $1,666.67 and a moving allowance of $10,000. "Carver would be eligible to participate in a Board-approved performance incentive compensation plan beginning July 1, 2017," the recommendation says.

David Miller, current vice president for administration and fiscal affairs at the University of Wisconsin system, will become the UT system's new chief financial officer. That comes with an annual base salary of $310,000, a monthly non-accountable expense allowance of $416.67 and a $15,000 moving allowance. "Miller would be eligible to participate in a Board-approved performance incentive compensation plan beginning July 1, 2017," the recommendation says.

DiPietro also recommended adding "senior" to the front of the title of current UT system vice president for research, outreach, and economic development, David Millhorn. Committee members approved this. The title change recommendation came with no change in compensation.

As for a replacement for current UT chancellor Jimmy Cheek, who earlier this year announced his plans to step down and take a faculty position, DiPietro said he hopes to have a candidate to recommend to trustees by the end of the year. Cheek has said he'll continue serving in his role until he a replacement is found.

OTHER ITEMS

In his address, DiPietro told trustees this is the second consecutive year that tuition increases were 3 percent or lower. The tuition increase rate hasn't been that low since 1978-79.

The president also addressed the Title IX lawsuit, saying the system's Title IX Commission will take a prospective look at improving culture, programs on college campuses.

RELATED: Commission appointed to review Title IX programs

Trustees voted to name UT Knoxville's College of Engineering after alumnus and donor John D. Tickle. This marks the second time in the campus’ 222-year history that a college has been named for an alumnus and benefactor.

The Board of Trustees will next meet March 28-29, in Chattanooga.

(© 2016 WBIR)


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