Thompson-Boling Arena

1600 Phillip Fulmer Way - Knoxville, TN 37996 - (865) 974-0953

Knoxville’s largest performance venue, Thompson-Boling Arena (TBA), is most well known as the home for the Volunteers and Lady Volunteers basketball teams in Knoxville, TN. While each of these games brings in spectators in the neighborhood of 20,000, the 18,390 square foot structure is host to a wide variety of theatrical performances. It rests at the edge of the University of Tennessee campus on the bank of the Tennessee River, directly next to Neyland Stadium.  This arena has brought symphonies, electronic dinosaurs, concerts, etc. to the city and continues to branch out in the type of show that may visit in the future.

History

Thompson-Boling Arena is named after B. Ray Thompson and a former University of Tennessee president, Dr. Edward J. Boling. Construction began in 1982 on an area of the UT campus used for student parking next to Neyland Stadium and the structure was opened to the public on December 3, 1987. The construction was initially supposed to take only two years, but the original contractor fell through due to conflicts with the University architects and construction was halted until a new company was found to complete the project.

Dr. Edward J. Boling, one of the men TBA was named in honor of, was the former president of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville

The building and contraction as a whole cost the University of Tennessee roughly $30 million, which with inflation, costs nearly as much as several professional basketball facilities across the nation. When it was first built, the arena could hold almost 25,000 people, making it the largest basketball facility in the world. In 2007, renovations went underway to take out 4,000 general admission seats and replace them with new luxury boxes.  A new suspended scoreboard was also installed and currently hangs over center court. The arena is scheduled to undergo more renovations in the years to come, creating a fresh, vibrant addition to the theatrical culture of Knoxville.

Audiences & Performances

When one thinks of Thompson-Boling Arena, the first thought is usually “Tennessee Basketball”, and while this is a major portion of the arena’s purpose, it has brought a wide variety of other performance types to the city of Knoxville. Concerts at TBA hold up to 25,000 fans and artists such as Aerosmith, Kanye West, and Phish have all put on shows in the facility. A more refined audience has been drawn to the arena to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra perform their annual symphony in Knoxville, TN.

After basketball season, the wooden court (named "The Summitt") is removed to make way for other types of performance.

Thompson-Boling also prides itself on being a family-friendly performance venue, bringing in shows such as “Walking With Dinosaurs”, a robotic show depicting the rise and fall of dinosaurs. This show incorporates pyrotechnics, lasers, and an earth-shattering soundtrack that truly puts TBA to its full potential as a state-of-the-art performance venue. Thompson-Boling provides such a diverse array of performances that a visitor may go to the arena on a monthly basis and never see the same type of show twice.

The City and Performance

The University Honors 257 course that this website arose from deals with the analysis of cities and their ability to become places of performance. It also addresses venues that would not normally be considered a “typical theater” and how they utilize their resources to create new places of performance for the city. Thompson-Boling Arena is a prime example of a venue that lacks the characteristics of a “typical” performance venue, but maximizes its potential to bring in audiences for shows and acts that one would not assume could be held at its structure. The arena attracts thousands of spectators a year to performances that are not even remotely related to basketball, for which it is most famous, and is quickly becoming one of the premiere venues for artists and performers to showcase their talent in the city of Knoxville.

-Authored by Neil Gupta


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