‘Let’s Be The Most Unique’: White Talks LNS Expansion

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Tennessee baseball released concepts for the upcoming Lindsey Nelson Stadium renovations Friday morning ahead of the start of the Knoxville Regional.

The 2022 Knoxville Regional marks the second straight season that postseason baseball has come to Lindsey Nelson Stadium. If the Vols get past Campbell Saturday night and can take one of two games in the championship round, Tennessee will host a Super Regional next weekend. The event would be the fourth postseason tournament at the old and warn down Lindsey Nelson Stadium in the past two seasons as Tony Vitello’s resurgent Volunteer program shows no signs of slowing down.

The proposed renovations address the glaring concerns at the stadium and White confirmed that they have a “soft” $60 million devoted to the project while noting rising construction costs. The proposed renovations include extending seating down both the left and right field walls, increased club and box seating, a reworked front entrance to the stadium and a new indoor baseball facility and potential student housing beyond the right field wall.

“It’s going to look a whole lot different,” Tennessee director of athletic Danny White said of the front of LNS. “There’s a few different options we’re still looking at but it’ll look drastically different. With the premium tower that we’re going to be building, about the top third of this structure behind us will be gone and rebuilt. The footprint will come out more. It’ll have a totally different look.”

“We’re looking at some public private partnerships that we want to explore on that space (beyond right field),” White said. “The potential for a residence hall solution and our University has unbelievable demand with applications for incoming freshmen. We don’t have enough beds. It’s a priority for all of us. We need an indoor infield for our baseball program. It’s a huge priority for us as well. So, that’s what is depicted in the rendering there as well.”

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While the frame work of the renovations are set, the details are not. Tennessee is seeking feedback on its designs, and specifically, what style of premium seating would be most popular.

“Excited to get some fan feedback,” White said. “I know we had an email go out earlier today. I just got back from SEC (spring) meetings, but we’re really excited to engage our fans in the process of determining what’s that right formula for what this stadium wants to be in terms of club seats, suites and some of the things that are so important for the fan experience standpoint and also from a business model standpoint to make sure we can deliver this project in a way that has a ton of success and gets us where we all want to be.”

Vitello — who has been pushing for improvements and renovations to Lindsey Nelson Stadium since arriving at UT in 2018 — expressed his excitement for the development of the project following Tennessee’s NCAA Tournament opening win over Alabama State.

“I’m tremendously excited. For me it’s been kind of a step by step and ‘hey, what do you think about this?’ and we’ll come back to the engineers about this—it’s been active, and the excitement has kind of stayed at a level,” Vitello said. “My phone was blowing up and I think everyone is very impressed. It’s hard to get into the exact details right now of ‘What’s this road going to be called?’, but just to see the grand scale of it lets people know how serious everyone around here is in investing in baseball. So yeah, I think a lot of continued excitement is what I’ve had. You can see it in my text messages from alums and VFLs and people that take a lot of pride on the program.”

The total capacity of the renovated Lindsey Nelson Stadium — which hosted a 4,340 sell out crowd Friday night — has yet to be released, nor has the start date for the project. Large scale construction won’t begin this offseason but likely following the end of the 2023 or 2024 season.

Tennessee hosted another raucous crowd for Friday night’s second Knoxville Regional matchup. Fans rallied around back up catcher Charlie Taylor who started in place of the unavailable Evan Russell. Vitello is looking to continue the rowdy environment and close to the action feel following the expansion.

“What Tony talks about is the hornets nest concept,” White said. “He loves the passion of our fans and how close they are to the field and the impact they have on the game. We don’t necessarily have a specific end game. We don’t have to be the biggest stadium in college baseball, but let’s be the best. Let’s be the most unique. Let’s have the best home field advantage. With our fans, we can do that if we do this project right.”

Ryan Schumpert is a senior at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since the moment he stepped on campus. He just completed a three-year stint with the Daily Beacon, the last two of which as the Sports Editor. Ryan also spent last three years at Volquest providing strong Tennessee baseball coverage of Tony Vitello's resurgent program. While the bulk of Ryan's responsibilities involved beat coverage and writing, he also recorded podcasts for both the Beacon and Volquest. Did we leave out the part about Ryan interning for the Smokies? Ryan's work ethic, versatility, and strong writing skills are but three of the reasons why Vol Nation will be hearing from Ryan for years to come.