It’s been more than 10 years since East Tennessee State University said good-bye to their football program. For economic reasons, the school decided there would be no more college football for local fans. All that changed recently when the college reinstated the football program, selected a new team, and started practices for their 2015 season.
But, they need a new stadium. That is going to cost $26.6 million, and the school really doesn’t have that kind of money just laying around, so donations are going to be necessary. At a press conference this morning, featuring former Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith (who played football at ETSU), school officials announced their plans for the fundraising. Mike Smith will be joining country music star and ETSU alum Kenny Chesney to co-chair the committee. [Kenny graduated from ETSU in 1991. That is his yearbook picture].
ETSU will hold a scrimmage game on April 2, in our local high school stadium. (Unicoi County High School’s Gentry Stadium in Erwin, Tenn.). Their first game is scheduled for Sept. 3, 2015, against Kennesaw State. That game will take place at Science Hill High School in Johnson City, Tenn. The new football program is exciting for everyone in Northeast Tennessee. It will be nice getting to go to local college games again.
The new stadium will seat 10,000 fans, very small in comparison to University of Tennessee’s Neylan Stadium in Knoxville (90 miles away), that seats 102,455 fans. But, that doesn’t matter to any of us. We’re getting football back. We’re getting a new stadium. And, we’ve got Kenny Chesney as co-chair of our fundraising committee. I think a benefit concert is in order. If Kenny is willing to donate his time, his band, and his equipment, we’ll find the venue. And, if he would like to put really high prices on autographed merch, I think there will be a long line to buy it!
Whatever this committee comes up with, I’m sure Smith and Chesney will make excellent co-chairmen for the new committee!