April 20, 2004
Thank you for your continued interest and your response to the "Ask Mike" feature
on utsports.com. I appreciate all the comments, questions and suggestions.
Dear Mr. Hamilton, I was just wondering if any further additions or
improvements to Neyland Stadium are upcoming. Also, is anything being done
to improve to the outer appearence of the stadium?
Mike Hamilton: Thanks for your e-mail.
Later this fiscal year we will commission a master plan for Neyland Stadium to assess needed renovations and upgrades over the next 15 -20 years. Fan amenities such as bathrooms, concession areas, concourse spaces, as well as structural issues that go along with having an 80 year old stadium will need to be addressed.
Thanks for your interest in Tennessee football.
The plan for the grandfathered football tickets that was announced yesterday in the Knoxville News-Sentinel is disloyal to the fans who have had their tickets grandfathered and especially for those who have had their tickets 40+ years. My father has had his tickets longer than I have been alive (36 years). I believe he has paid more than his share in ticket prices to be entitled to the seats he has had for so long. This is without being forced into paying a "donation" to the Athletic Department. This is all about the MONEY, what about the GAME, the PLAYERS, and most of all the LOYAL fans that come every year win, lose, rain, shine, or snow? They should count, should they not?
The last few seasons I have not attended the games with my father. My 11 year old nephew has gone with him. What a great tradition! However, this tradition is in jeopardy for my 16 week old son as my father may have to make a tragic and hurtful decision to move from the seats that hold so many memories for him and our family just to give the tickets to someone who will only come when the Vols win - just because they have the money.
We work in a state that is losing money and jobs everyday. So, how can it be asked the average person to pay these prices and maintain a loyal fan base? Is this just because a few wealthy alums are putting pressure on the department for these seats as they are better than what they currently have? OR Is it to put younger fans, who presumably have and will spend more money, in those seats? Either way this still is not the right course of action.
I am a proud alum of the University of Tennessee and, as stated earlier, have been to many football games. I hold a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from this great institution. However, I am not proud of the Athtletic Department at this moment. The Athletic Department makes enough money that they should not need to force anyone into moving or making donations especially after the tickets have been grandfathered.
Mike Hamilton: Thanks for your e-mail and your support of the program.
Kelly- Thanks for your e-mail and thoughts. Obviously changes like this are never easy to make and frankly we have struggled with this for some time. However, we cannot overlook the fact that we must start spending dollars on renovations at Neyland Stadium or the nephew you mention will not be able to enjoy the games in the same fashion we have.
We will undertake a master plan this spring to plan for the future of the stadium including how to upgrade it for the fans and the program over the next 25 years so that it will be around 75 years from now. I am grateful to your father that he has had the enjoyment of his dollars spent on UT football during these past 40 years. We went to great lengths to respect that in how we designed this most recent change. Frankly, a lot of folks were looking to how they might be able to pass tickets on to another generation- this plan gives that option. Secondly, I want to make it clear that for this year and 2005 no donation is required for 2 tickets and any tickets over 2 can still be retained by moving them to the end zone.
Lastly- one of the greatest misconceptions in town is that UT athletics is awash in cash- that's simply not true. The program funds 20 sports and only 2 have a positive cash flow (football and men's basketball), is very generous to the campus at large and is responsible for millions of dollars of economic impact and hundreds of jobs in the Knoxville area all while not using any university resources or tax dollars. We have a mandate to be fiscally sound and to not lose money. We are on target this year to spend less dollars than last year. In addition to this- in order to provide the entertainment that our fan base and alumni expect and at the level of success we expect requires significant dollars.
We want what is best for our fan base and for our institution and thus from time to time decisions will have to be made that are in our judgement hard ones to be made, but ones that must be made. Thanks again for your comments and thoughts- I will be happy to discuss this further with you if you wish.