A rainy March forced Tennessee to spend much of its spring football practice indoors. On Friday, their indoor practice facility was officially christened with its new name.
Anderson Training Center, the $45 million facility that includes a 100-yard indoor field, weight rooms, coaches’ offices, meeting rooms, a players’ lounge and other bells and whistles that athletic director Dave Hart said makes it the best in the country.
“This is a historic moment in the program’s history,” Hart said.
Charlie Anderson, the CEO of Anderson Media Corporation and former leader of the Country Music Association, is a UT trustee and longtime supporter. The facility was named in honor of his family.
“Charlie played here. He cares,” Hart said. “(New coach) Butch Jones didn’t come here with a magic wand. But this facility, in a sense, is a magic wand.”
Anderson said he feels strongly about donating to both academic and athletic pursuits at UT, and he’s seen first-hand the importance of facilities in football.
“It takes real investments in brick and mortar,” Anderson said.
Anderson said Jones asked him to speak to the senior class before Saturday’s Orange and White Game. Anderson joked that he might be long-winded. “Butch told me, ‘Charlie, you can talk about whatever you want — but you’ve got five minutes.’ ”
Friday night’s ceremony on the indoor turf included wine, hors d’oeuvre, a four-piece band and valet parking for supporters. Members of UT’s coaching staff donned jackets and ties for the occasion.
Pilot Flying J CEO and Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, a longtime UT supporter, attended the ceremony. The FBI raided Pilot Flying J’s headquarters this week as part of an investigation into alleged rebate fraud. Haslam spent several minutes speaking privately with Jones and Hart after the ceremony.
Hart said future facility plans include an expansion of the outdoor Haslam Field — named in honor of Haslam’s family — and a modern residence hall that could be used by student-athletes.
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat