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How the Bristol Motor Speedway Will Handle a 2016 Tennessee-Virginia Tech Football Game

(Bristol Motor Speedway)


If you can't get a seat for a University of Tennessee football game in the 102,000-seat Neyland Stadium, just wait for 2016 when Bristol Motor Speedway transforms into the largest venue to ever host a college football game.

Announced Monday, the Volunteers will travel halfway to Virginia Tech, stopping in Bristol, Tenn. to play the Hokies on Sept. 10, 2016 in front of an anticipated 150,000 fans, potentially the largest crowd in the history of college football.  A capacity crowd will easily dwarf the roughly 120,000 who crammed into Soldier Field in 1927 for USC vs. Notre Dame.

While Neyland Stadium sits as the nation’s fourth largest college football stadium, it dwarfs in comparison to Bristol. In fact, all of Neyland would fit inside Bristol (those Bristol corner seats don’t look too great, do they?).

Getting a motor speedway ready for college football won’t involve just laying some lines over the turf in the infield. First, crews will need to do a complete scrub-down of all things NASCAR following an August race (you can’t have pro sports dirtying up college football!). In a process that typically stretches months, crews will pressure wash the entire stadium, clean all the suites, and install a complete turf field, in just eight days.

Bristol plans to haul in 8,500 tons of rock in 400 truckloads to build the base of the field.

So that folks can actually see part of the game, Bristol will bring in new seating to get fans closer to the field. While the speedway holds about 160,000 for races, the football configuration will work out to about 150,000 fans, says Jerry Caldwell, the speedway’s manager.

The speedway’s major video board in the center of the infield will get removed because it sits on a pylon. But since so many seats stretch far from the field, expect a host of new screens added inside, so people can actually see the game.

To make the Battle at Bristol spectacle complete, hopefully there’s some sort of car race going on at the same time as the football game. Otherwise, what could people in the nosebleed seats actually be to see?

Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and technology for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.