University of Tennessee Football Stadium Early History – Neyland Stadium & Shields-Watkins Field

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Neyland Stadium, located in Knoxville, Tennessee, is one of the largest stadiums in the United States and is the home for the University of Tennessee Volunteers football team. In addition to the better known stadium name the playing surface actually has a separate name as it is referred to as Shields-Watkins Field.

In addition to serving as the staple location for home football games in Knoxville Neyland Stadium has also been used for professional football exhibition games, large conventions, and concerts. The stadium is located at an address named after long time Volunteers coach Phillip Fulmer (Fulmer spent about 30 years coaching at Tennessee) whose namesake provided the direct inspiration for Phillip Fulmer Way, the official address of Neyland Stadium.

During the approximately 80 year existence of the stadium a total of 16 expansions and renovations have taken place over the years with the official max capacity topping off at 104,079. Renovations in 2006 and 2009 to add East and West Club seating actually brought down the total maximum capacity to just over 100,000 (100,011). As the stadium currently stands with maximum occupancy of just over 100,000 it is the fifth biggest American stadium when excluding racing stadiums. The distinction with racing stadiums is due to the fact that by and large racing operations provide seating for a tremendous amount of people in part because of the size of multiple mile long tracks but the seating is not necessarily done in a manner consistent with the traditional concept of a stadium.

Interestingly the athletic facility known as Neyland Stadium has not always been called Neyland Stadium. When the project was first completed in March of 1921 the name Shields-Watkins Field was given to the spot that would eventually be known as Neyland Stadium. The Shields-Watkins name comes from the name of the original donor, Colonel WS Shields and his wife Alice Watkins-Shields. Even though the tremendously expansive stadium has since been renamed the field that the University of Tennessee football team takes most Saturdays in the fall is still known by the name "Shields-Watkins Field" – a name that has stood the test of time.

Eventual University of Tennessee football coach and athletic director General Robert Neyland is the man whose name now adorns the stadium entrance. General Robert was honored with the name change in 1962 after being credited with making the Volunteers (or Vols as they are also called) a powerhouse football program while coaching the squads from 1926-1952 (Coach Neyland missed two seasons during that twenty-six year span for continued military service). Before his death in March of 1962 Coach Robert Neyland initiated an effort to make the very first significant expansion of the stadium. The plans Neyland had for the home of the Vols were so expansive that a portion of his overall plan has been incorporated into each subsequent expansion over the past 40 years.

Source by Sam Noffs