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V-O-L-S: Fan-favorite feature returning to Neyland Stadium after more than a decade

The Board of Trustees approved Tennessee Athletics' request to adjust the budget for the ongoing Neyland Stadium renovations to a $288 million budget for phase 1.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A fan-favorite feature that's been absent from Neyland Stadium for more than a decade is ready to be raised once again after the University of Tennessee's Board of Trustees approved a revised plan for ongoing renovations. 

The traditional V-O-L-S letters will shine over Neyland for the first time since 2009. Many fans were particularly excited to see the letters return after the university teased their return with one set sitting outside Neyland Stadium in June. A second set with an orange background was spotted being hauled on Chapman Highway on July 1. 

The first set of letters was installed Tuesday morning. 

A representative with UT said he expected the second set would be lifted up on July 7 and 8, depending on the weather. 

The 8-foot-tall lighted signs had been a recognizable feature of the stadium since 1966 but were taken down in 2009 when UT renovated the JumboTron to include lighted pictures.

Trustees increased the budget for phase one of the project by $108 million.

The trustees' finance committee agreed in a meeting Thursday to endorse boosting the initial Neyland renovation budget from $180 million to $288 million. 

Now a century old, Neyland is a symbol of the Vols' and UT's success and tradition as a football powerhouse. It's seen numerous additions and structural tweaks through the decades.

In 2017, trustees signed off on spending $180 million for what were then significant first-phase renovations.

Tennessee Athletics now wants to go bigger, according to a summary report submitted to trustees that alludes to "new strategic priorities."

"Further justification for an increase in the project budget is directly attributed to annual inflationary increases in labor, materials and other construction costs—particularly recognized over the last 12-18 months," the report states.

"The vision for the Neyland Stadium renovations is to deliver an unparalleled experience for the UT community through impactful and resourceful modifications."

You can read more about it here.

Most of the project, which is also subject to state approval, would be paid through bonds with the balance coming from cash, department revenue and donations. Debt funding through bonds would amount to an estimated $233 million.

The Athletics Department views the project as "transformational" both locally and for the state.

"I appreciate the Board of Trustees for understanding and supporting our revised plan and budget, which will ultimately allow for a significantly enhanced gameday experience for every fan throughout Neyland Stadium," Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Danny White said. 

"We've done a great deal of listening and learning over the past 18 months, and our fans have been instrumental in helping to shape the vision for the future of one of the most iconic sporting venues in the world.

As planned, current renovations would continue with additional features carrying on through an expected completion of fall 2026.

Here is some of what would be new or updated under the revised plan:

*A stadium Wi-Fi network for fan wireless connectivity

*V-O-L-S letters – add two sets of LED back-panel displays to reintroduce a traditional stadium feature. 

*Founders Suites – "add spacious and elegant" private suites and lounge

*Restrooms under Gate 11 ramp

*Upper north plaza area activation - add food and beverage services and new tiered seating

*Lower west premium club – add a 12,000-square-foot indoor club space under the new chairback seating deck

*Skybox renovations – update skyboxes, including common spaces, and add operable windows

*Southwest and southeast entries - expand plaza entries and extend exterior concourse zones

*Brick cladding for vomitories and Gate 11 ramp 

Here's what would stay from the prior plan:

  • South concourse 1 expansion (including new and additional bathrooms and concessions)
  • Kitchen, commissary and loading dock
  • State-of-the-art sound system
  • North videoboard and plaza area

Here's some of what would be held back for possible future development:

  • South concourse 3 expansion
  • South concourse 2 chairback seats
  • New vertical center ramp (remove ramps at Gates 10 and 11)
  • Outdoor patio and social gathering areas in southwest locations
  • Checkerboard Lounge and media relocation    

Here's some of what would be held back or removed from the initial phase for possible future development:

  • South concourse 3 expansion
  • South concourse 2 chairback seats
  • New vertical center ramp (remove ramps at Gates 10 and 11)
  • Southwest and southeast prominent gate structures

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