(KNOXVILLE) By the time the Vols hit the football field next fall, fans could see improvements to Neyland Stadium.

The University of Tennessee Athletic Department announced Thursday it has hired a major architectural firm to research the renovation.

The project will evaluate upgrades to the south and east sides of Neyland Stadium with plans to widen concourses, expand restrooms, and improve concession areas.

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UT Athletics also said other stadium enhancements it is looking into include additional video displays, a state-of-the-art sound system and high-density WiFi delivery.

The announcement comes after the Vols had their best season since 2007, finishing 9-4.

"We feel right now is a great time to begin this study. There's several factors that go into that. One, of course, is the positive momentum of the football program, the improving success. It's a great time to support our Tennessee football team.

"The second part is we're gaining some financial stability, which is going to help in this effort," said the athletic department's chief financial officer and senior associate athletic director, Brett Huebner.

Huebner added that continued investment in Neyland is worthwhile because of its significant economic impact on Knoxville.

Walking through concourse, it's easy to see, the south and east sides are dated. Half of the stadium has modern amenities.

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Twelve years ago, the athletic department developed a plan, but couldn't afford to finish it.

"The master plan from 2004 included five phases. Three of those five phases were complete to the tune of around $140 million. There's been a pause over the last several years," Huebner said.

Huebner blames the pause on the recession and the decline of the football program during that time.

"I think it took several of those factors to get back on course and now would be the better time to take the next steps," he said.

UT hired architecture firm Populous, headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., to create a new plan and estimate the costs of renovation. UT will look at the results and decide which improvements to make.

Populous has helped design more than 80 collegiate football stadiums. Most recently, the company helped complete architectural and design services on Texas A&M's Kyle Field, Baylor's McLane Stadium, Oklahoma's Memorial Stadium and Minnesota's TCF Stadium.

The architects plan to conduct the study this spring and UT hopes to have the results and start implementing the plan by summer.

Forbes put out a list of the "Most Valuable College Football Teams" in 2015. Tennessee ranked third on the list, beating every other SEC team. Forbes valued the team at $121 million.

Originally constructed in 1921, Neyland Stadium has undergone 16 expansion projects.

The first game at Neyland Stadium was played on Sept. 24, 1921, at Shields-Watkins Field.

Neyland Stadium has an official capacity of 102,455, and is the fifth largest football stadium in the U.S.

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