The University of Tennessee is known for its football and basketball programs. One of the unique features of UT is that the women's basketball program has been highly successful at the school, with the Lady Vols perennially putting together a top 5 program nationally. The men's basketball and football teams are also players in the SEC race most years, with the football team having the ever-lovable Smokey on the sideline in his orange and white checkerboard coat.
While Pat Summitt and Bruce Pearl always got the crowds to pack in to watch the basketball at Thompson-Bowling Arena, it is the football team that leads the way when it comes to tailgating life. Tennessee is SEC country, which means that football rules the roost (unless your name is Kentucky), and game day at Neyland Stadium is an event that should be on the bucket list of any college football fan.
Tennessee may have some of the most famous end zones in all of football (college or pro) with the iconic orange and white checkerboard pattern from the stands emblazoned in the scoring area. Night games are especially cool here, with the crowd going wild after each score as the band plays "Rocky Top Tennessee" on repeat for 60 minutes of football.
Tailgating for these games is a must. The sounds and the smells of game day shouldn't be experienced in any other way, and RVers should be ready to get to their parking space early to fully enjoy everything going on around the stadium prematch.
Tickets to watch University of Tennessee football will fluctuate with the performance of the team and who the Vols are playing. This is a huge stadium, capable of holding over 102,000 people at capacity, so finding a ticket is usually possible, albeit, with a stadium this size, the nosebleeds feel miles above the action. Expect games against the likes of Alabama (third Saturday in October rivalry), Florida, and Vanderbilt to be at the top end of the ticketing price scale.
Gates for the various Tennessee sports open at different times to get into the stadium (football (two hours) and soccer (one hour) for example), so be sure to check at the ticket office to avoid being at the stadium too early and missing out on the tailgating fun.
Make sure you get to the stadium early if you intend on parking anywhere close. Tennessee, like most SEC schools, is rich with school traditions that pre-date modern traffic concepts and which can cause headaches for those driving to the game. The combination of the Vol Walk and the band march means that the whole area around that side of the stadium is closed to traffic for at least 35 minutes every game day. Phillip Fulmer Way is also closed for a large section from three hours before the game for safety reasons.
The lots that directly surround the stadium are reserved for people with passes and parking permits. These come with season tickets before the season starts. The university does open up a few lots for public parking on campus on game days, and these usually cost at least $25.
For RVers, the only way to park on the campus is to have a permit that you get by being a university donor. No public RV spaces are allocated on campus, but there are some options in Downtown Knoxville, including the Coliseum, that are first-come, first-served. One area even includes RV hookups by reservation with a fee that may be around $100 per space for a single game. RV parties are also seen on Neyland Drive by the cement company.
Knoxville Area Transit (KAT buses) can take you from the Civic Coliseum, Old City, or Market Square areas for around $10 for a round trip on game day. That is an excellent option for RVers who don't want to walk in but who wish to explore the tailgating situation in the aforementioned areas before going to the game. Taxis and rideshares are dropped off on Volunteer Blvd East and picked up off of Circle Drive in what is a well-coordinated public transport situation.
Staying on campus in an RV is prohibited for all except donors to the university with lots opening early in the morning on game day for everyone else headed to the stadium. Staying in the City of Knoxville, but not right by the stadium, will often be the best bet for RVers wanting to be near the University of Tennessee.
Staying near UT is possible, thanks to a couple of RV park areas in the city. These will allow RVers to park the RV from Thursday night onward (until Sunday morning) with rates on a first-come, first-served basis starting around $35. These areas have been known to offer a full experience with RV hookups and sewer as part of a season ticket pass. Also, note that the sewer and water may be turned off in the winter because of the cold weather.
Clinton / Knoxville North KOA sits about a 25-minute drive from the stadium and offers seasonal amenities and some year-round hookups. Norris Dam State Park brings you near Cove Creek and may already be near your route if you plan to travel along I-75 from the north.
If you stay out by the Civic Center in the main RV hub, there is a shuttle that runs back and forth to the campus. The fee for this is small, so it might be worth it on a cold day. You could also easily walk in from this area after parking the RV with a nice stroll along the riverfront after enjoying the tailgating festivities.
It is going to be all about UT orange and white when attending a game at Neyland Stadium. Volunteers fans, usually totaling over 100,000, create a sea of team spirit, so get to one of the many stores in town or on the way in to get the wardrobe together. Dress for the weather, too, with a ball cap (complete with UT logo) in the early fall. Avoid blue and orange (Florida), black and gold (Vanderbilt), and crimson and white (Alabama) at all costs.
You might need to walk more than usual to get to the stadium, so make sure to have footwear that you feel comfortable wandering around in for game day. Load up the RV with your typical football game gear, knowing that parking on Thursday will give you three nights to enjoy the area. Tennessee lawn chairs and koozies will be a must here.
Prepare for the weather and take plenty of sunscreen and bug spray if you intend on being outside for any length of time, day, or night in Tennessee. Have the RV stocked with basic medical supplies for accidents such as cuts and scrapes, and know where the nearest emergency facilities are just in case something more serious arises. Always make sure to drink plenty of water, especially when tailgating with adult beverages.
The RV lots closest to the stadium that allow overnight parking also allow generator use so you can look forward to getting creative with your cooking endeavors. These areas also allow gas or charcoal grilling, so Friday night and Saturday morning are huge events as RVers put forward their best food (think BBQ and ribs) to share with like-minded fans.
As a college town, Knoxville is a place that is easy to get around and eager to feed hungry Volunteers fans. The University of Tennessee campus is a place with food options radiating out from it. There are plenty of restaurants in and around that area that vary from homely to dives to higher-end dining. Make sure to get your fill of Southern cooking and BBQ before you leave town.
Neyland Stadium has more than its fair share of food vendors, with most sticking to traditional stadium fare. The hot dogs and the gyros both come highly recommended on fan message boards, and it is worth noting that alcohol sales are allowed at SEC football games, but they stop serving at the end of the third quarter.
The main note when heading from the RV to the stadium is that UT does have a clear bag policy. This means the only items that can be taken in are in a small, clear plastic bag (historically no larger than 12x6x12 inches). The only exception to this is a small clutch style purse or a stadium seat cushion with no pockets. Expect a small wait in the security line, with longer wait times closer to kickoff.
Weather in Knoxville varies depending on the time of the game, both in terms of seasonally and the time of day. Noon kickoffs in late August and September can be blisteringly hot, while evening kickoffs under the lights in the middle of November mean that fans will need to bundle up warm to stay comfortable. Stock the RV with plenty of clothing choices and make your decision based on the weather on the morning of the game.
There are four first aid stations at the Volunteers stadium, and the university and the Red Cross jointly provide them. These stations are staffed by qualified doctors and nurses, with further first aid units being deployed around the stadium. This means that if an emergency does occur during the game, then the university is well prepared to cope with it.