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Official Review by Chad Minton, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Before being renovated in 2007, Thompson-Boling Arena was the largest basketball venue in the United States, holding nearly 25,000 fans. Now the arena has a seating capacity of 21,678, which easily makes this one of the loudest basketball venues you will step in.
The arena is located directly next to the historic Neyland Stadium and the Tennessee River. If you're all about the Orange and White, then you'll be in heaven when you make your way up to Thompson-Boling Arena.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There are numerous concession stands scattered all throughout the main concourse of Thompson-Boling Arena. Regardless of where your seats are, you're going to be conveniently located to a concession stand.
As for the choices, there's nothing that will jump out at you on the menu. Even though the options are pretty generic, the prices are very reasonable. All your basic concession items like nachos and hotdogs won't run you more than $4 to $5. They also offer a pulled pork barbeque basket for $8, but that was really the only unique item that was offered.
It's definitely a cool thing when you step into a collegiate arena and instantly get the feel of being at an NBA game. That's what Thompson-Boling Arena delivers to the fan with the enormous octagon-shaped facility that both the Vols and the Lady Vols call home.
You quickly realize you're in for a treat when they begin introducing the Vols. The lights went out in the arena to draw the attention to the court where flames shot up to light up just the court. This set the mood immediately for the rest of the game.
The student section was clearly defined and was situated right next to the band. They made their fair share of noise throughout the game and sang the famous "Rocky Top" every chance they got.
It's not just the students that make the noise. The Vols have a huge home-court advantage thanks to the intensity of their entire crowd.
The immediate area surrounding the arena is very pretty considering its location on campus. It really has that cozy feel of being on a historical college campus, and Neyland Stadium is adjacent to the arena.
If you're wanting to experience what Knoxville's nightlife has to offer then you'll be pleased to know that all of the area's famous bars and restaurants are within walking distance.
You really can't ask for anything better when you're talking about where you want to put your collegiate sports stadiums, and the area appeared to be very safe as well.
The fans were what really made this venue glow on this particular night. Despite the team playing very poorly this season, you would've thought the team was battling for first place with the way the fans cheered on their team.
What was even more impressive was how full the arena actually was, which had to be just short of a sellout. Considering how disappointing the Vols have performed in the 2011-2012 season, it was very impressive to see so many fans turn out for the game in rainy conditions.
Not only were the fans very passionate about their Vols, but they were also a very friendly crowd.
One thing that was a little disheartening was how early the fans left the game despite it still being a close enough contest for the opposing team to battle back into the game.
Unless you're familiar with driving through the University of Tennessee's campus, then you'll mostly likely have to make a considerable walk to the arena.
There are plenty of parking lots located around the surrounding area, but it seemed very much a hassle to get to these lots due to all of the students walking to the game.
If you don't mind making a 10-minute walk from the main strip, then I advise doing this over hassling with the parking.
As for the restrooms, they were kept very clean and there were never any lines despite having over 20,000 people in the building.
There are numerous price ranges throughout this large arena, but there isn't a bad seat in the house. You can get an upper deck ticket somewhere in the range of $20-$25 if you buy through the campus ticket office.
Dropping around $20 or a bit more is well worth it at a venue like Thompson-Boling Arena. You're getting SEC basketball and watching a program that has had a lot of success over the last several years. That includes a No.1 overall ranking in 2008.
Even if you're not a fan of the Vols, it's definitely a cool thing to witness 20,000 fans coming together to sing "Rocky Top".
Another extra goes to how the video screens are laid out inside the arena. If you're a stats guy then you'll love all of the in-depth stats they update continuously on two large screens.
There are also two large high-definition screens located in two of the upper corners of the arena.
Finally, I couldn't get over how much arm space you get in an arena that fits so many people. In no way did I ever feel like I was crammed in or uncomfortable. Many arenas fail to accomplish this, but Thompson-Boling Arena has done an excellent job at making sure the fans are comfortable.
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