I remember the first time my dad took me to a Tennessee Football game at Neyland Stadium. I was five years old, but I remember it like it was yesterday. In fact, there weren't many Saturdays in the fall growing up that we weren't at Neyland Stadium cheering on the Vols.
Tennessee Football's season opener is scheduled for September 5th, but in the midst of a global pandemic, what might a game at Neyland Stadium look like?
Vol fans are used to spending their Saturday’s in the fall with tens of thousands of tailgaters. Tightly spaced fans lining the streets for the Vol walk, and 102,455 fans inside Neyland Stadium cheering on the Vols as echoes of Rocky Top surround them.
However, for this fall – the NCAA’s chief medical officer Dr. Brian Hainline told us it will be a phased approach to having fans in stadiums. He said early in the season the focus will just be on playing football with very limited fan access, but by later in the season he hopes that you see a larger fan base attending.
It is ultimately up to the University, the conference they play in, and state and local authorities. The University of Tennessee is optimistically planning for football as scheduled.
So what would a socially distanced Neyland Stadium look like?
The NCAA’s thought is essential staff and family would be the first in stadiums, then it would slowly increase from there.
Based off the dimensions of the average size of sports seating found with 3D Digital Venue, one fan every six feet apart, would allow Neyland Stadium to reach roughly 16% capacity or 16,393 people.
If they allow two seats together, Neyland Stadium could reach roughly 18,442 fans at 18% capacity.
If venues can use a combo of one or two seats, or triple seats only, Neyland would be able to reach a capacity of roughly 24% or 24,589.
And, if Neyland Stadium could find the best combo of singles, doubles, and triple seats, the maximum capacity of fans would be 35% or 35,859.
There are other factors of course, like lines for concessions, how to enter and exit the stadium using social distancing, and how staff will keep the massive stadium cleaned.
It’s important to note, again, that this is all hypothetical. UT athletics says it is optimistically planning for the fall as scheduled, and fans are ready, as football season ticket renewal rates are tracking similar to previous seasons.