Although Tennessee’s 2016 college football season begins tonight against Appalachian State, there is only one thing on every fan’s mind. In the words of Dale Earnhardt Jr, “It’s Bristol, baby!”
On September 10, the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile” becomes America’s largest football stadium as the Tennessee Volunteers face off against the Virginia Tech Hokies. As of today, the record for most fans attending a college football game is held by the University of Michigan with 115,109 fans packing Michigan Stadium for a 2013 matchup with Notre Dame. That record is expected to be shattered on September 10 as nearly 160,000 tickets to the Battle at Bristol have been sold.
Not only is the venue “a football stadium on steroids,” as director of business development for Bristol Motor Speedway Jeremy Davidson put it, it is also located in the heart of both Tennessee and Virginia Tech fan bases. Depending on what side of the state line you reside in Bristol, your college football allegiance may be very different.
The logistics of turning one of the world’s most famous racetracks into a football stadium are mind-boggling. 450 dump trucks have been brought in to lay gravel to level the ground underneath the playing field. A 700-ton, four-sided video board has been hung from the top of the stadium, each screen measuring a gigantic 1,900 square feet. Additional stands lining the ends of the field are also being constructed, and crews are working nearly around the clock to get the stadium ready in time.