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Official Review by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
If you mention the Southeastern Conference around most people, their immediate response is “great football conference.” However there are a number of historically strong basketball schools in the conference, including Kentucky, Florida and the Tennessee Volunteers. The University of Tennessee has won nine SEC Conference titles and made 19 NCAA tournament appearances… and that is just the men’s team!
The Lady Vols, coached by the legendary Pat Summitt, have won an amazing eight National Championships for the Big Orange. A number of successful coaches and players have passed through Knoxville on their way to the pros and college basketball fame. These include coaches Pat Summitt, Ray Mears and Don Devoe, along with players Bernard King, Ernie Grunfeld, Allan Houston and Dale Ellis. Lady Vol stars have included Holly Warlick and Chamique Holdsclaw.
Home for both the men’s and women’s Vols basketball teams is the massive Thompson-Boling Arena, perched along the banks of the Tennessee River. Built in 1987, it has a capacity of 21,678 in its basketball configuration. The court has now been named in honor of Pat Summitt, and it also features the familiar orange and white checkerboard pattern on its baselines, in keeping with the tradition begun in the end zones of its next door neighbor, Neyland Stadium.
The arena has gone through two renovations since it was built, adding luxury suites and loge seating and also remodeling the food concessions area. Thompson-Boling Arena is very proud to hold the title of the largest on-campus, single sport arena in the country.
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".
Thompson-Boling features both general concession stands and stands owned by local franchisees. Calhoun's BBQ is a local favorite, with a huge pulled pork sandwich going for $9. Additional stands sell pizza, Mexican food, and popcorn. Drinks at all stands go for $4 and chips for $2.
Due to its 21,000 seat capacity , excellent sound system and large number of luxury suites, Thompson-Boling Arena feels much more like an NBA arena than a college athletic facility. This is not meant in a negative way. Everything about the arena is done in a first class manner, even the seats offer a padded surface. You will still have the college flavor of the pep band, the cheerleaders and the student section standing up and cheering throughout the game. The vibe here is very similar to the feeling you get at the Dean Dome at UNC in Chapel Hill.
Thompson-Boling Arena is located on the massive University of Tennessee campus, which straddles a steep hill leading down to the Tennessee River and the home port of the Volunteer Navy. It is a heavily wooded campus and the architecture of the various academic buildings is stunning. You'll have no problems remembering the streets on campus as they feature sports names such as Phillip Fulmer Way, Peyton Manning Pass, and Pat Summitt Street.
There are a number of good restaurants in the vicinity, including Café 4 at Market Square and a Knoxville landmark, Calhoun's on the River.
Accommodations nearby include the Holiday Inn at World's Fair Park, the Hilton Garden Inn University and the Hampton Inn Knoxville North. All of these hotels are within walking distance of the arena and will allow you to miss the parking nightmare if you're planning on staying in the area overnight.
Vol basketball fans are just as boisterous as the football variety. They proudly sport the bright orange colors of the school and love to sing "Rocky Top" at every available opportunity. As a matter fact, there is a specific student section dedicated for the Rocky Top Rowdies. These fans are used to seeing top tier basketball and are not intimidated by schools such as Kentucky, Louisville and Florida.
Year in and year out the Vols play one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country, as they have to fill 21,000 seats on a regular basis, and they feel this prepares them well for the NCAA tournament. Visiting fans are welcome as Tennessee is known for its hospitality, but the sheer number of Vol fans surrounding you can be intimidating if you are wearing the other school's colors.
Thompson-Boling Arena is located in the middle of the lovely University of Tennessee campus. It is bordered by downtown Knoxville, the Tennessee River, and I-40. Add to that 21,000 fans all headed to the same place and throw in a massive multi-year road construction project and access can be problematic.
The University choice of bright orange as its official color almost feels like it is due to the multiple traffic "cone zones" every block or two and the bright orange safety vests on the highway workers. That being said, numerous pay parking lots are located adjacent to the campus. The best option is to park for free at the Agricultural campus nearby and take the free shuttle over to the arena. This will save you countless time and possible road rage. Once you arrive at the arena access is excellent, with numerous portals to enter and spacious concourses within the building.
Knoxville is one of the larger cities in Tennessee, but prices are much more reasonable than Nashville. Expect hotels close in to be in the $100/night range and the restaurants are very reasonably priced as well. Parking for basketball games is an average of $10, unless you park for free at the Ag campus and ride the shuttle bus to Thompson-Boling Arena.
Ticket prices in the arena can range from $50 down near the court to $14 in one of the higher levels of the building. Throw in the many free attractions located nearby and you can enjoy a very affordable getaway weekend to Knoxville.
There are three great extras located within walking distance of Thompson-Boling Arena. Two will be impossible to miss due to their special architecture. The first is the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. Just look for the world's largest basketball, coming in at 30 feet tall and weighing 10 tons.
Another treat is found just below the arena, along the Tennessee River. This area is a greenway, fishing area, boating marina and park named Volunteer Landing. During football season, fans simply cruise up the river, dock just below Neyland Stadium and get the party started.
One point for all the basketball success and history that belongs to the Tennessee men's and women's basketball programs. You can't help but feel this history when you see a game at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The last extra is easy to find due its prominence on the city's skyline with the Sunsphere Tower as the centerpiece. The World's Fair Park was the site of the 1982 gathering, and it has been updated with pavilions, water features, and small amphitheaters for concerts.
Member Review by ChadMinton on Feb 06, 2012
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.
Member Review by BillVol on Apr 04, 2014
This is my school's arena. But as a basketball fan, there are many arenas I prefer over TBA. Ever since concessions here were contracted out to Sodexo, quality has gone down and prices have gone up. As someone who prefers a traditional collegiate atmosphere at a college game, I don't think you'll find that here. As the review points out, TBA has the atmosphere of an NBA arena. The neighborhood is fine -- on campus with Calhoun's on the River a short walk away. Tennessee fans are among the most devoted in basketball. UT finishes in attendance in the top five nationally every year, unlike the basketball team. The arena is easy to get to and tickets are a bargain by today's standards. I do like the tributes to UT basketball thoughout the arena, which was renovated a few years ago. It is not a bad place, but I think SJ was generous to rank it so high. Perhaps a tribute to the fans.
1807 Cumberland Ave
Knoxville, TN 37916
1600 Worlds Fair Park Dr
Knoxville, TN 37916
525 Henley St
Knoxville, TN 37902
1706 Cumberland Ave
Knoxville, TN 37916
5411 Pratt Rd
Knoxville, TN 37912