Bristol game could be history-making event for Volunteers
OCT 15, 2013 9:19a ET
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Crews brooming confetti off the stage that just hours prior doubled as a launching pad for a daytime fireworks show.
Press area for photographers and video crews that warrant a blueprint for inept stadiums like Autzen and Ben Hill Griffin (in that department anyways).
Price tag of half a million for a press conference.
A single college football game between Tennessee and Virginia Tech with nothing on the line besides bragging rights that has its own website, own Twitter handle and own hash-tag over two years before kickoff.
At the top of it all is one man that people continually say gets it done — Bruton Smith. Based on the theatrics and effort Monday, I'd put absolutely nothing past him and his people to pull off a transformation that Optimus Prime would thumbs up.
"It's a passion of my dad's and Bruton Smith, my boss, to make the impossible a reality," Speedway Motorsports COO Marcus Smith said.
Smith and Speedway Motorsports own about seven tracks across the country. Money exists (Smith once built a car out of a million $1 bills) for the Battle at Bristol to be done right, and if it is and this one's a success, the "Last Great Colosseum" will have its title attached to football history as the first of its kind.
All it took was a director of athletics that is clearly student-athlete centered and a head football coach that gets it. A Tennessee program that's lost some swag and an athletics department needing a bankroll didn't hurt. (Note: if this game sells out then the payday heading home to The Hill will almost cover the price tag to buy out Derek Dooley's contract.)
No matter. The world of neutral venues for football took a quantum leap forward a few weeks ago and went full-go official Monday.
Do the Hokies and Volunteers need to be ranked and talented for this event to be a success? The way players and talented recruits say they believe in Butch Jones that appears to be just a matter of time for the Tennessee side of it (see FOX Sports and Scout's team recruiting rankings with Vols at No. 2).
To answer the question, not likely. The novelty alone should do the trick. Plus, few areas of the free world are set up for top-notch tailgating like Bristol Motor Speedway.
The fine folks at Tennessee RV are licking their lips. Distributors of alcohol at Bonnaroo are nodding their heads slowly with an impish grin. An administrative assistant at Bristol Porta Jon is taking a deep breath before faxing over a bid, knowing a Christmas bonus could come with a box checked yes.
Point being the economy of east Tennessee just found a sixth gear. If housing this monster of fans works out, then it's on.
Kevin Harvick, a well-known NASCAR driver, once found it more cost effective to fly his team back and forth from Charlotte during race week in Bristol than rent several hotel rooms with astronomical price tags. If the logistics work in the Tri-Cities then the RV-less should be able to afford being a part of history.
Pair an affordable room with a sensible ticket price and Smith may well have bought himself a crop of velcro to attach Bristol Motor Speedway to an orange-clad memory for over to six figures worth of Vols supporters.
Just be careful. Families can add and it will take card-carrying Big Orange Country members well outside the Great Smoky Mountains to sell out the world's fastest half-mile.
Hokies supporters, Vol Nation…fill it up. Have something to tell your grand-kids. Get your dad a Hobby Lobby gift card for Father's Day so he can frame his ticket stubs from the night of Sept. 10, 2016.
Now we know who that fella whispering in Ray Kinsella's ear was, convincing him to plow up his damn farm: "If you build it, he will come."
Only this time, the players aren't dead and he has about 150,000 friends.
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