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Vols, Hokies officially announce speedway-hosted 'Battle at Bristol'

By Jerry Hinnen | College Football Writer

Bristol Speedway seats approximately 160,000 fans.
Bristol Speedway seats approximately 160,000 fans. (USATSI)
After years of rumors and discussion, it's official: Tenneessee and Virginia Tech will play each other at Bristol Motor Speedway.

CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman reported last week that the teams would attempt to break the all-time college football single-game attendance record in 2016, at a venue which can seat up to 160,000 fans. Bristol officials and representatives from both schools -- including coaches Frank Beamer and Butch Jones -- detailed their plans in an official announcement at the speedway Monday.

The game is scheduled for Sept. 10, 2016.

"To be a part of football history is something that's very important to both our universities, our student athletes and everything," Jones said, per the Associated Press.

"Next to Lane Stadium, this is my favorite sports venue, I promise you," Beamer said.

"We want to make this a huge, huge deal," Bruton Smith, the track owner and president told the AP. "Our goal is to set a world record for the largest attended football game in the world."

The current official NCAA record belongs to this season's Michigan-Notre Dame game at the "Big House," with an official announced attendance of 115,109. Per the AP, the NCAA record book also notes that the Irish played two games at Chicago's Soldier Field in the 1920s with crowds estimated at around 120,000.

The 52-year-old speedway sits almost perfectly halfway between the Knoxville and Blacksburg campuses along Interstate 81, and the AP reports initial talks to hold a game between the Vols and Hokies there began in the late 1990s. The Speedway looked into the possibility again after a 2005 renovation, but was unable to bring both teams to an agreement until now.

Track official Jerry Caldwell thanked "the landscape from college scheduling" changing for making the matchup more feasible.

Caldwell cautioned that while Bristol is "not a football stadium," he promised fans would still have a quality viewing experience once the speedway was reconfigured to host the game.

"I think you'll see that the sight lines are great and are going to be very similar to what you would see in a college football program maybe within 10 to 20 yards from where you would be in a football stadium," Caldwell said.

Via the Chattanooga Times-Free Press, an artist's rendering of the speedway layout for the game:

The official Tennessee football Twitter feed provided a picture of a football field painted onto the Bristol asphalt for Monday's announcement:

 
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