On Sept. 10, 2016, the most infamous half-mile in NASCAR will play host to big-time college football.
Today, Bristol Motor Speedway officially announced that it will be the site of the “Battle of Bristol” game between the University of Tennessee Volunteers and the Virginia Tech Hokies.
According to the track, seating will be available for approximately 150,000 spectators – accounting for almost all of the track’s 160,000-seat capacity – and tickets will start at $40 apiece.
For the record, the current official attendance record for a college football game stands at 115,109, a mark set during last month’s Notre Dame-Michigan tilt at Michigan Stadium.
“There has always been a desire by fans to see a football game at our historic Speedway,” Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman Bruton Smith said in a statement. “We couldn’t be more excited to turn this long-time rumor into a reality and to provide sports fans with an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a part of the biggest college football game ever.”
Bristol’s transformation from short track to football field will begin after its August 2016 NASCAR weekend. After cleaning, detailing and pressure-washing around the speedway, the turf and field build will then take place over a span of eight days, with 8,500 tons of rock (that’s approximately 400 truckloads’ worth) to serve as the base of the field.
In order to create proper sloping for drainage, the base rock will taper from three to six feet deep in the middle of the infield to about one to one-and-a-half feet deep on the sidelines.
The “Battle of Bristol” marks the culmination of what has been a longtime dream of Smith’s. Back in 2005, Smith said he had offered $20 million to both schools in order to get their football teams to play at his racing coliseum in the mountains of East Tennessee.
Additionally, another SMI facility, Texas Motor Speedway, has also made an attempt in the past to attract a major college football game – in their case, it was the Red River Rivalry contest between the University of Texas Longhorns and the University of Oklahoma Sooners, normally played at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
But, now, finally, Smith has his game – and the Vols and Hokies are looking forward to it.
“We are looking forward to this opportunity to be a part of college football history,” Tennessee head coach Butch Jones said. “The chance to play in a great venue as Bristol Motor Speedway against a program the caliber of Virginia Tech is another illustration of how we are continuing to build upon our great and unique tradition here at Tennessee. Our players and everyone associated with our football program will have wonderful memories of being a part of such a historical event.”
“To be able to play in front of a crowd that is the largest to ever see a college football game is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. “With the great fan support that Virginia Tech and the University of Tennessee have, it should be a great atmosphere.”