Multiple media outlets are reporting that Virginia Tech and Tennessee will play a football game at the Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS) in the 2016 football season.
Per Andy Bitter of the Roanoke Times, neither school has confirmed the game, but BMS has scheduled a press conference at 11 AM next Monday, October 14th.
BMS has a seating capacity of 160,000 fans for a race, and it’s not clear at this point how the logistics of playing a game on the infield of the race track will be handled.
The record for attendance at a college football game is 115,109, set last month when Michigan hosted Notre Dame. A VT-UT game at Bristol has the ability to easily shatter the record. Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium seats 102,455, and Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium seats 66,233, so a sellout of BMS is not out of the question.
It won’t be the first time, however that BMS has been the site of a football game. In 1961, the track hosted a National Football League preseason game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins, per a 2005 article on NASCAR.com and this March 2013 article on PitTalks.com.
The deal, when finalized, will bring to fruition a concept that has been around since the late 1990s but which first gained serious traction in 2005, when BMS owner Bruton Smith said he would offer $20 million to both schools to play at BMS. Smith boasted at the time that he would tear down newly constructed buildings in the infield and install artificial turf so the two teams could play.
“We’ll level the whole place. We’ll put in the Astroturf, and we’ll do it all,” Smith said back in August 2005.
So far, Smith isn’t doing any talking, and when the details are announced, it’s going to be interesting to see how they’re going to pull the game off, and how much each team will be paid. But there’s no question that when the game happens, there’s going to be just as much attention focused on the event — over 150,000 people attending a college football game — than the game itself.