Vol Navy and Tennessee football tailgaters face strict restrictions in Knoxville

Brittany Crocker
Knoxville News Sentinel

Restrictions on tailgating in a pandemic year have bummed out fans, but new rules announced by the city of Knoxville will pour cold water on Vol Navy game day traditions unique to the Tennessee River. 

There will be very tight restrictions on "sail-gating" for Tennessee football fans. 

As a COVID-19 safety measure, boats in the Vol Navy can only be stacked two deep at city-owned Volunteer Landing and Vol Navy docks downtown. This is a huge change, because boats near Neyland Stadium typically tie together in large chains that extend into the river.

"A lot of these biggerhouse boats can't maneuver their boats that quickly, so they move them down there to keep for the entire football season. A 24-hour limit is going to deter a lot of them from coming at all," said Vol Navy member Aaron Jones.

Docking space for transient boaters is still based on a first-come first-served basis, but the city asks boaters not to moor at the limited dock space for more than 24 hours. In addition, the city is asking only football game ticket-holders to moor at the docks on game days. 

People crossing each others' boats should wear face coverings and keep social distance, the city said. 

Vol Navy parties – which take place on game weekends and beyond – are a huge part of the UT game day atmosphere. 

Jones said the restrictions don't make sense to him.

"On these bigger boats, there's still social distancing on them whether they're two-deep or not. Some of these are 500 square feet with just a couple of people on them," he said. 

"Not to mention most of us have been tying up together all summer at the lake anyway, so we've already been exposed to each other." 

The new public health protocols are all aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19. The Knox County Health Department has reported that social gatherings are the No. 1 way the virus is spread in the county. 

Vol Navy rules, which the city said will be enforced by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, aren't the only changes. 

Downtown, tailgaiting will no longer be allowed at any city-owned parking garages or surface lots. The University of Tennessee previously announced that it had banned university-organized tailgating events on campus.

Knoxville Area Transit will not offer game day shuttle services either, and bus capacity will be reduced to 50 percent. 

More:Tennessee football won't have university-organized tailgating this season

The first home game of the season is against Missouri on Oct. 3. 

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