The third-largest on-campus basketball arena in the country, Thompson-Boling Assembly Center and Arena is one of the nation's biggest and brightest stages for college basketball.
Named for the late B. Ray Thompson Sr. (1906-87) and former UT President Dr. Edward J. Boling (1922-2015), Thompson-Boling Arena opened in 1987 and regularly hosts Tennessee men's and women's basketball and volleyball matches as well as concerts, camps, conferences and other special events throughout the year.
Only Syracuse's Carrier Dome, which also is utilized for football, and UNC's Dean Smith Center can seat more on-campus basketball fans. Tennessee was one of only two schools in the country to rank in the top 10 nationally in both men’s and women’s basketball average home attendance during the 2017-18 season (Louisville was the other).
Thompson-Boling Arena has undergone a complete interior transformation dating over the last decade. In the fall of 2008, the University of Tennessee Athletics Department unveiled Phase I of a two-phase renovation project for the facility. The $35 million project marked the first major renovation in the venue's history.
Phase I included new seats for the entire arena, a center-hung scoreboard and concourse refurbishments, such as graphics and other amenities.
Phase I also included new luxury suites and loge seating, which were a primary funding source for much of the renovations. The 32 luxury suites are located in the north balcony of Thompson-Boling Arena. The loge area features 166 side court seats, located directly below the luxury suites and includes private adjoining hospitality areas.
Phase II highlights included the construction of a bridge connecting the G-10 parking garage to the arena at concourse level, and a 360-degree LED ribbon board located between the upper and lower decks also was added.
Finally, with the installation of state-of-the-art LED light fixtures—first put to use in February 2014—Thompson-Boling Arena became one of the first venues in the world to feature lights that are smaller, brighter, and up to 85 percent more efficient than conventional arena metal halide lights.
The light-emitting diode fixtures use an ORNL-developed lightweight graphite foam that cools the LED, making them more efficient and reliable. This enables ninety 400-watt LED fixtures to bathe the arena's floor with 200 foot-candles per square foot, compared to the 130 foot-candles produced by the arena's 110 old 1,100-watt fixtures.
In 2018, an extensive facelift took place to the existing men's and women's basketball locker-room space along the arena's north corridor on event level. Both locker rooms were enlarged and modernized with state-of-the-art technological and aesthetic enhancements. In addition, an expanded and enhanced athletic training facility, featuring world-class hydrotherapy systems, was completed for use by both basketball programs.
That new "Larry Pratt Basketball Locker Room Complex" cost $5 million, funded entirely through private gifts. Lead donor Larry Pratt's commitment of $2 million during the Campaign for Comprehensive Excellence—coupled with other leadership gifts—enabled UT to fund the project.
All restrooms throughout the facility also were renovated in 2018.
Funding for all Thompson-Boling Arena renovations projects came from donors to the Campaign for Tennessee Basketball, the Campaign for Comprehensive Excellence and revenue from new premium seating areas such as the north luxury suites and loge seats. The aforementioned capital projects bolstered Thompson-Boling Arena's reputation as one of the nation's premier basketball facilities.
BASKETBALL TIME IN TENNESSEE
Thompson-Boling Arena opened during the 1987-88 season, with the Tennessee men's basketball team defeating Marquette 82-56 before a crowd of 25,272.
In the venue's opening season, the Volunteers finished third nationally with an average attendance of more than 20,000 fans per game.
And since that debut season, a majority of the facility's storied history has centered around men's and women's basketball. In the last two and a half decades, the Vols and Lady Vols have hosted record college basketball crowds, as well as WNBA and NCAA Tournament basketball games.
The 1989 Men's SEC Tournament was the first of what promised to be many postseason tournaments to be held in Thompson-Boling Arena. The riverfront arena has drawn rave reviews from teams, administrators and media for its modern facilities, which are necessary for hosting major tournaments.
The men's 1990 NCAA Southeast Region first- and second-round games, followed by the 1990 NCAA Women's Final Four, made Knoxville a basketball hotspot. Thompson-Boling Arena later hosted the men's NCAA Tournament South Regional Finals in 1999 and 1994.
On the basketball front, Thompson-Boling Arena has been filled for more than just collegiate games. The Celtics-Bullets game in 1988 attracted a then-record NBA exhibition record crowd of 23,611.
DIRECTIONS TO THOMPSON-BOLING ARENA
From McGhee Tyson Airport: Turn north on U.S. Highway 129 leaving airport. After crossing the Tennessee River bridge just outside of Knoxville, exit onto Neyland Drive (Tennessee Highway 153). Turn left (south) at the bottom of the exit ramp and follow road until Thompson-Boling Arena is visible. Turn left onto Lake Loudoun Boulevard. Turn right at stoplight. Follow Phillip Fulmer Way to parking garage.
From I-40 East (From Nashville) & I-75 North (From Chattanooga): Follow I-40 and I-75 to I-40/I-75 junction in west Knoxville. Continue on I-40 east to U.S. Highway 129 south. Follow 129 south to the exit for Neyland Drive (Tennessee Highway 153). Turn left (south) at the bottom of the exit ramp and follow the road until Thompson-Boling Arena is visible. Turn left onto Lake Loudoun Boulevard. Turn right at stoplight. Follow Phillip Fulmer Way to parking garage.
From I-40 West (From Asheville, N.C.): Follow I-40 west to the James White Parkway exit. Follow Parkway to Neyland Drive (Tennessee Highway 153) until Thompson-Boling Arena is visible. Turn right onto Lake Loudoun Boulevard. Turn right at stoplight. Follow Phillip Fulmer Way to parking garage.
From I-75 South (From Lexington, Ky.): Follow I-75 south to I-275 south just past Merchants Road. Follow I-275 to I-40 east. Exit I-40 east onto James White Parkway and follow Parkway to Neyland Drive (Tennessee Highway 153) until Thompson-Boling Arena is visible. Turn right onto Lake Loudoun Boulevard. Turn right at stoplight. Follow Phillip Fulmer Way to parking garage.