Tennessee varsity-Food City deal


University of Tennessee arena naming rights Image: University of Tennessee

The University of Tennessee (Knoxville, Tennessee, US) Vice-Chancellor/Director of Athletics Danny White recently announced a multiyear naming-rights agreement with the longtime Tennessee Athletics corporate champion Food City that rebrands University of Tennessee’s on-campus arena as the Thompson-Boling Arena at the Food City Center.

‘University of Tennessee’ stated that the agreement with Food City was negotiated by Tennessee Athletics’ multimedia rights partner, LEARFIELD/The Vol Network. The Food City’s overall commitment to Tennessee Athletics will allow the university to invest in excess of $20 million over the next 10 years and will aid new and needed renovations of the arena and upgrades to the facility’s interior and exterior. These improvements will significantly enhance the fan experience while attending any Thompson-Boling Arena at the Food City Center event on the University of Tennessee campus.

The University of Tennessee is a public land-grant research university in Knoxville, Tennessee, United States. Founded in 1794, two years before Tennessee became the 16th State, it is the flagship campus of the University of Tennessee system, with 10 undergraduate colleges and 11 graduate colleges.

The Tennessee Volunteers men’s basketball team is the collegiate men’s basketball program for the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. The Volunteers compete in Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Southeastern Conference (SEC).

The 21,678-capacity Thompson-Boling Arena at the Food City Center is a multipurpose arena on the campus of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee. The arena opened in 1987. It is home to the Tennessee Volunteers and Lady Vols basketball teams. Since 2008, it has been home to the Lady Vols volleyball team.

Indianapolis (US)-based the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a nonprofit organization that regulates student-athletics among about 1,100 schools in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. It also organizes the athletic programs of colleges and helps over 500,000 college student-athletes who compete annually in college sports.

Birmingham (US)-based the Southeastern Conference (SEC) is an American college athletic Conference whose member-institutions are located primarily in the South Central and Southeastern United States.

The Tennessee Lady Volunteers basketball team represents the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee in NCAA women’s basketball competition.

The Food City is an American supermarket chain with stores located in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. It is owned by K-VA-T Food Stores, Inc., a privately-held family and employee-owned corporation headquartered in Abingdon, Virginia.

Winston-Salem (US)-based LEARFIELD, formerly Learfield IMG College, is a large collegiate sports marketing company representing more than 200 of United States top collegiate properties including the NCAA and its 89 Championships, NCAA Football, leading Conferences and many of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the country.

The Vol Network is the radio and television network of the University of Tennessee Volunteers women’s and men’s sports teams known as the Vols and Lady Vols. Established in 1949 and since 2019, it has been operated by the Learfield IMG College.

‘University of Tennessee’ further stated that among the planned additions to the venue will include new club amenities, updates to the Ray Mears Room and a state-of-the-art center-hung videoboard. The exterior façade of the facility will be modernized and the look will be more in line with Tennessee’s other athletics venues.

Complete details of the enhancements to the venue will be announced at a later date.

Said White, “We are thrilled to partner with Food City on this transformative naming rights opportunity, the first of its kind for Tennessee Athletics. Food City is a neighborhood partner who knows our State and the region extremely well and has been a key partner for Tennessee Athletics for nearly 30 years. Food City is a valued member of our community and bleeds orange, and we look forward to taking this partnership to another level. I want to thank the Smith family as well as the Food City team for this long-term partnership.”

Food City’s longstanding commitment to supporting Tennessee Athletics and the Department’s mission of leading the way in college sports dates to 1997. The privately-held family-owned company is headquartered in Abingdon, Virginia and currently operates 152 retail locations throughout Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, Georgia, and Alabama.

Stated Steven C. Smith, Food City President and Chief Executive Officer, “The Food City is proud to be a long-time supporter and the official supermarket of the University of Tennessee Athletics. We’re excited to take our partnership to the next level with the naming of the Food City Center, which will serve as a hub for University of Tennessee Athletics, as well as other key events within the Knoxville community.”

Opened in the Fall of 1987, the Thompson-Boling Arena at the Food City Center is home to Tennessee’s volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball programs. The arena is named for the Late B. Ray Thompson and former University of Tennessee President Dr. Edward J. Boling.

Added Rick Barnes, men’s basketball coach, “I’ve long said that the Thompson-Boling Arena gives us an elite homecourt advantage and the Food City clearly recognizes that. This is an extraordinary commitment by a wonderful partner that will not just elevate Tennessee gamedays, but it’s an investment that will also enhance the student-athlete experience across all our sports. We appreciate Food City for stepping up and supporting Tennessee Athletics in a way that is truly transformational.”

The venue has undergone multiple phases of renovations throughout its 36-year history, most notably an overhaul in 2007 that included the addition of two levels of premium suites and one level of premium loge seating spanning the arena’s North end.

Said Kellie Harper, women’s basketball Head Coach, “Tennessee Athletics is fortunate to have an amazing relationship with a community-oriented company like Food City. They have a legacy of support for our student-athletes, coaches and programs, and their latest commitment illustrates an incredible investment toward competitive excellence by the Vols and Lady Vols. Pairing Thompson-Boling Arena, our teams and the best fan base in the country with Food City is a winning combination.”

In addition to delivering an incredible homecourt advantage for the Vols and the Lady Vols, the facility hosts dozens of highly attended events annually, including concerts featuring world-famous recording artistes, professional wrestling showcases, monster truck and professional bull-riding competitions, conferences, and more.

For basketball specifically, the Thompson-Boling Arena at the Food City Center stands as one of the country’s biggest and brightest stages for college hoops. Tennessee owns a combined basketball home record of 947-196 (.829) – where the court is named in honor of the legendary eight-time national champion Head Coach Pat Summitt – with the Lady Vols boasting a 508-56 (.901) mark and the Vols going 439-140 (.758).

Stated Eve Rackham Watt, Volleyball Head Coach, “The Thompson-Boling Arena has been a special place to play, and home to the best fan base in college sports. We are really excited about this new partnership with Food City and believe it will continue to push Tennessee volleyball forward. All of us are excited to get in the arena this Fall and start competing.”

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