KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Athletics announced its finalized adjusted seating model for the 2020 football season at Neyland Stadium.
The department said the model is designed to align with state and local social-distancing guidelines for public gatherings. It hopes that Neyland Stadium can return to its traditional seating model in 2021.
At the first home game of the 2020 season—Saturday, Oct. 3—Neyland Stadium will be approximately 25 percent of the venue's full capacity.
The athletics department said capacity restrictions could change as the season progresses, based on statewide coronavirus data and recommendations from public health officials.
Fans are encouraged to do their part by wearing masks in public and practicing healthy habits.
"I can't overstate how much I empathize with the thousands of fans who won't get to experience gameday in Neyland Stadium this fall," Tennessee Director of Athletics Phillip Fulmer said. "These circumstances are beyond our control, and we understand the importance of playing our part to keep our community healthy. For those who will be with us in the stadium this season, please know that we are committed to creating the safest possible environment in and around Neyland Stadium."
UT’s Associate Athletics Director for Fan Experience and Sales, Jimmy Delaney said the process of cutting Neyland Stadium to 25 percent capacity was "gut-wrenching", but the university feels comfortable with the plan that’s now in place.
"We looked at the percentages of season ticket holders and the groupings of 2, 3, 4 or 5 and up to 8 and then put a layered up over social distancing standards, and then it creates a starting foundation of what the stadium could look like and what capacity could be." Delaney explained. "We're going to be able to, if you have five season tickets, we're going to put you in a group of five versus putting you in a group of eight that might waste three seats."
Although Neyland Stadium will look and feel different this fall, Delaney says the university will do its best to make Saturday's in Neyland feel natural.
"We're pretending like there's one hundred thousand fans in Neyland Stadium this fall. Delaney said. "The fun of Neyland is not being reduced.
Here are some important things the athletics department wants you to keep in mind if you want to get tickets this season:
- Regardless of whether or not they attend games this fall, everyone who purchased 2020 football season tickets will retain their status as a season-ticket holder along with their renewed seats (seats of 2020 intent) when the 2021 renewal process begins.
- Capacity restrictions in place at the start of the football season could change as the season progresses. This emphasizes the importance of statewide behavior to combat the spread of COVID-19. Practicing healthy habits and adhering to CDC guidance could lead to opportunities for larger gameday crowds at Neyland Stadium.
- Tennessee has outlined detailed guidelines for fan health and safety at Neyland Stadium this season. Those guidelines, which align with previously announced SEC guidelines, can be accessed HERE.
- As soon as possible, fans who previously purchased 2020 Tennessee football tickets should ensure that VolsTix@utk.edu is recognized by their email client as a "safe sender" so that time-sensitive ticket-offer emails are not directed to a junk or spam folder.
- Fans who receive ticket offer emails from VolsTix@utk.edu should be sure to look closely at the seat location listed in the ticket offer, as the location will be different than their original seats of intent.
- Tennessee does not anticipate offering any single-game tickets this fall unless tickets allocated to the visiting team are returned.
- Tennessee Athletics cannot guarantee that tickets purchased on the secondary market will be for seats that are socially distanced from strangers.
Current UT students and active Tennessee Fund donors with season tickets will receive priority on 2020 football tickets based on annual gift amount and rank order, according to the department. The original season-ticket price has not changed.
Student seating sections remain the same as in past seasons (sections D-K). New, socially distanced student-seating guidelines (including capacity in those sections) will be determined by the UTK Office of Student Life, according to the athletic department.
Students can request tickets, which will be issued on a game-by-game basis, via BigOrangeTix.UTK.edu starting on Sept. 23 for the first home game.
Starting Thursday, donors in descending segments/groups will receive an email from VolsTix@utk.edu offering tickets in a specific location, and they will have 48 hours from the time the email was sent to accept or decline the ticket offer, according to UT Athletics. If no response is received by the deadline, the tickets will automatically be accepted and charges will be processed.
Officials said those who decline tickets will receive an email outlining options on how to manage the ticket and donation funds associated with their account.
After each donor segment's deadline passes, tickets will be offered and assigned to the next segment of donors. This process will continue until ticket offers are provided to all active Tennessee Fund donors or the adjusted capacity is reached.
Any ticket inventory that remains after offers have been extended to all active Tennessee Fund donors will then be offered to season-ticket holders who are not active donors.
"We appreciate so much the many generous donors with high levels of historic giving who have been understanding and accepting of these one-year caps," Fulmer said. "Those limits create thousands of opportunities for additional loyal fans to experience gameday with us at Neyland Stadium."
Tennessee Fund members giving at the Bronze Victor level and above are capped at eight tickets per game or their previous quantity of tickets held (whichever is fewer). Members giving at the Mountaineer Level and above are capped at four tickets per game or their previous quantity of tickets held (whichever is fewer).
These ticket caps enable a minimum of 5,400 tickets per game for distribution to additional donors, increasing attendance opportunities for more households of Tennessee fans.
"Fans attending games this season are going to have to relearn much of the Tennessee gameday experience," Associate Athletics Director for Fan Experience & Sales Jimmy Delaney said. "Education prior to arrival is key to ensuring that fans have a smooth experience once they get to campus. In the weeks to come, we'll be sharing important messaging with ticket holders about mobile ticketing, stadium entry procedures, changes in and around the venue and much more."
To read more about the ticket plan, visit the Tennessee Athletics Department website.