On the eve of a home game, Circle Park becomes a tailgate headquarters where white tents house catered food and cable television.
Welcome to Tailgate Tennessee.
The company takes tailgating a little further than fold up chairs in the backyard, hosting paying customers in Circle Park every Saturday.
"I think Tailgate Tennessee in this location unites campus because everything goes right by Circle Park," said Drew Rutherford, the marketing and event manager of the company.
The business began last year on Aug. 1, 30 days before the first game of the season.
Rutherford detailed that athletic director Dave Hart wanted a program like this, which other SEC schools such as Alabama offer. By partnering with Terry Turner, owner of All Occasion Party Rentals, the business came together.
The former UT athletics worker admitted he is pleased with how the event has grown.
"Business aside, we want to provide Tennessee fans with an aspect of our games that has been missing ... there's not a unified place where you can compare it to other campuses, such as the Grove at Ole Miss or the Quad at Alabama," Rutherford said. "One of the best football stadiums in the country is just steps away, so if you're going to be that close to a place like Neyland Stadium, we want to honor that and honor that tradition."
The tailgate company has received large support from the UT Athletic Department. Rutherford credits the department's support for the smooth transition to Circle Park.
Tailgate Tennessee is now sponsored by All Occasions Party Rental, which handles much of the setup and breakdown. Other partners include Vol Network, Dish Satellite Network and Buddy Craig RV's and Motor Homes.
Tailgate Tennessee's sales and customer service are provided solely by Rutherford and Joseph Rackley.
Rackley, a senior in supply chain management and business analytics, said the idea behind the venture is to make it easier for game attendees to enjoy their tailgate without the hassle of having to setup for everything.
“We offer security to watch the belongings of tent users the night before,” Rackley said.
Mostly families and company groups choose to rent tents for the games, but student groups are welcome to utilize the services as well.
The company offers two tent sizes, cable TV with live coverage of the game and catering from Chick-fil-a, Calhoun’s, Papa John’s and McAlister’s.
“The response that we've gotten in this location is way more than we could have imagined,” Rutherford said. “We’re in a position to triple the business that we did last year and really make this a special place for game days.”
The company will set itself apart by decorating with chandeliers among other ornamentation this fall.
“We sold out for Georgia and Auburn a month ago but we are able to wrangle some more space to set up a few more,” Rutherford said. “I think the campus saw a need for it and we were fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time.”