Plans to renovate Neyland Stadium on the Knoxville campus have been temporarily placed on hold, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Athletic Director Phillip Fulmer said last week. This decision significantly affects the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology, which is located in Knoxville and housed in South Stadium Hall.
UT’s Board of Trustees approved plans last November for a two-part stadium renovation to cost $340 million. Phase I, which focuses on the south end, is projected to cost $180 million, $50 million of which was raised through private fund raising. The entire project was slated to be complete by the start of the 2021 season, which is also the stadium’s 100th anniversary.
“I think it is financially prudent and most responsible to delay the start of construction, as we allow Audiology and Speech Pathology to move in an orderly manner,” Fulmer, a former coach of the UT Vols, said in a news release Thursday. “It also allows us not to have additional expense and time pressures on both the university and athletics.”
“This gives us ample time to be as careful and thoughtful as possible in the move to the department’s permanent home,” said Steve Schwab, MD, UTHSC chancellor. “We appreciate Coach Fulmer’s consideration.”
About two thirds of the department, which is located in South Stadium Hall, would have been relocated to temporary space or spaces. This would have included the entire audiology clinic, which housed eight large sound-treated booths and much state-of-the-art equipment; the aural habilitation and rehabilitation treatment rooms; some of the speech-language pathology treatment rooms; the clinical observation rooms; the faculty research laboratories; the material rooms; client file rooms; faculty offices; multiple student work spaces; four classrooms; a large clinic waiting room; 34 faculty and staff members; and approximately 200 students.
“Faculty, students, and patients have been increasingly concerned about the potential disruption to their productivity, education, and services,” said Ashley Harkrider, PhD, UTAA Distinguished Service Professor and chair of the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology. “There is a great sense of relief that the department will not be required to move into temporary space and then move again to its permanent home. Coach Fulmer is committed to emphasizing warmth during his leadership of UT Athletics. This tenet of his administration is embodied in his decision to delay the renovation of South Stadium Hall.”
Dr. Harkrider said the delay also allows the athletic administration time to assess the optimal future use of South Stadium Hall. “This also enables the department to be deliberate in determining and creating the best possible home for our students, patients, and faculty so that we can maximize the long-term potential of the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology for the university and community,” she said.