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Environmental portrait of arena manager Tim Reese
Tim Reese in the stands at Thompson-Boling Arena.

UT Knoxville employs more than 10,000 people on a campus that serves nearly 30,000 students. This small city is home to a number of rarely seen spaces and interesting people in a wide range of quirky and unique jobs. Volunteers at Work, a Q&A portrait series, seeks to introduce our campus to the people behind the scenes and the interesting spaces where they work.

Tim Reese, Director of Thompson-Boling Assembly Center and Arena

Roles and responsibilities: My office holds the central calendar for the arena, coordinates the arena budget, leads special events at the arena, and supports the Athletic Department with their events.

His path to arena management: I came to the university in 1981 as director of student activities. When the arena opened in 1987, it fell under Phil Scheurer—my boss—and he was in charge of the search for arena manager. He encouraged me to apply.

A good arena manager must be . . . flexible.

The number one rule for managing the arena . . . is to remember that you are presenting events for the general public and ensure that you make their visit to the facility as enjoyable as possible.

Arena chic: On a typical day, I am a hoodie, baseball hat, and shorts kind of guy. It’s my outfit of choice.

On his favorite moments in Thompson-Boling Arena: The best moments are when you’re down on the floor and you walk through the curtains at a big event and realize you were a component in making this happen. You walk through and there are 14,000 Luke Combs fans or 16,000 Chris Stapleton fans or 22,000 people there for a basketball game. It’s a “wow” moment for all of us who work here.

Backstage drama: There are a lot of unusual things that have happened in the course of working in the arena. Once, a bull got loose after a bull-riding event as it was being loaded onto a truck. It wreaked some havoc backstage before it got loose onto Neyland Drive. It was late at night and the police had to shut down the road. . . . That was a memorable night.

What he enjoys about his work: No two days are the same. A lot of people probably say that, but in this business it really is true. It’s rewarding to see fruition—at the start of the day, there’s nothing but a stage. At 8 o’clock, there’s 18 truckloads of stuff hung from the ceiling and there’s 16,000 people in the building. On some days, there’s nothing on the floor at 4 a.m. and by 8 a.m. there is a complete basketball court set up for a 2 p.m. game. You see the fruits of your labor; you can see what you’re achieving. It’s a cool thing.

Hobnobbing with celebrities? There’s a great misconception about our business—you get to meet everybody. The fact of the matter is that you meet production managers, tour managers, and tour accountants. Only occasionally will you meet the artists.

His favorite shows: There have been so many great shows, but Garth Brooks may be the best entertainer we’ve ever had. We recently had James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt here—they are both such great musicians.