Bristol Speedway to seek NCAA mark
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Tennessee and Virginia Tech will finally play a football game at Bristol Motor Speedway, and they expect to set an attendance record in what is being billed as the "Battle at Bristol."
Track and officials from both universities formally announced the plans Monday amid confetti and fireworks during a festive news conference at the 52-year-old racetrack. The game is scheduled for Sept. 10, 2016.
"I full well believe we'll play in front of the largest crowd to ever watch or have watched a football game -- that's college and pro," Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver said.
Bristol Motor Speedway general manager and executive vice president Jerry Caldwell said seating capacity for the game would be in excess of 150,000. The track sits nearly halfway between the campuses of the schools, off Interstate 81 in Tennessee.
The NCAA-recognized attendance record for college football is 115,109 and was set last month at Michigan Stadium for Michigan-Notre Dame.
Bristol's proximity to both campuses made this event a rumored possibility since the 1990s. Weaver remembers discussing it with former Volunteers athletic directors Doug Dickey and Mike Hamilton.
Caldwell said track officials explored the feasibility of a game again early this year. He then approached Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart and Weaver.
After all the talk and speculation, the show will go on. Weaver said the game is "a reality that's as big as anything that's happened in the world of football."
"It's a chance and opportunity to be part of something extremely special that will live with you for a lifetime," said Tennessee coach Butch Jones, who was grand marshal of the Food City 500 at the Bristol speedway in March.
Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer drove on the Bristol speedway as part of a charity celebrity race in 2009 and remembers sitting in the Bristol bleachers watching races as a high school student.
"Next to Lane Stadium, this is my favorite sports venue, I promise you," Beamer said.
The game was announced amid great fanfare, though a scheduling conflict prevented BMS track owner and president Bruton Smith from attending. Beamer, Weaver, Jones, Hart and track officials sat on a giant stage on the racetrack's infield. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam offered videotaped messages.
"We want to make this a huge, huge deal," Smith had told The Associated Press. "Our goal is to set a record for the largest attended football game in the world."
To accommodate a football field, the speedway will need modifications, some of which will happen as soon as next year, Caldwell said. A massive video board that sits atop a pylon in the middle of the infield will be taken out, Caldwell said.
There also is the matter of fans in the stands being close enough to the field to be able to tell what is going on in the game. Tennessee's Neyland Stadium, which holds more than 102,000, would fit inside Bristol Motor Speedway.
"It's not a football stadium, so it's going to be a bit different," said Caldwell, who added that TVs will be installed throughout the facility so that "everyone can still see everything."
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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