A Dream Homecoming

Category: News

Rocky Top will always be home sweet home, no matter where you put down roots. Now a UT alumnus has opened a new hotel next to campus that feels more like a Big Orange home than hotel, complete with a western-inspired watering hole from the University of Tennessee’s own Peyton Manning.

Graduate Knoxville is the 24th hotel in the Graduate Hotels collection, founded by alum Ben Weprin (’01) in 2014. The spirited hotel has officially opened its doors on Cumberland Avenue.
Every Graduate Hotels property can be found in a university-anchored community, each uniquely designed to celebrate and commemorate the community’s optimistic and youthful energy. Graduate Knoxville is a Vol wonderland – Decked out with Tennessee Orange decor, welcoming gathering spaces, and locally-inspired art, the hotel offers a warm and nostalgic experience for UT alums, students and travelers alike.

Knoxville-specific narratives are brought to life throughout the hotel. In the lobby, the front desk is reimagined as a Vol Navy boat fit for tailgating on the Tennessee River, while a gallery wall displays cartoons depicting familiar UT rites of passage created by alum Marshall Ramsey. Black-and-white photography, Vol sports memorabilia, and scenic views of the Smoky Mountains are found throughout; in guest rooms, hidden gems are waiting to be uncovered, such as Rocky Top-inspired throw pillows, Smokey bathroom wallpaper, and collegiate plaid curtains.
Knoxville was always a dream homecoming for Weprin.

“As a UT alum, I know how special this town is, and we look forward to serving as a memorable gathering place for years to come,” said Graduate Hotels Founder and CEO Ben Weprin. “Graduate Knoxville has been a labor of love for our team, and we’re honored to have had the opportunity to create a hotel that celebrates this incredibly dynamic and proud community.”

As Weprin embarked upon the project, he reached out to none other than friend and fellow alum Peyton Manning to partner on creating a one-of-a-kind food and beverage destination that was quintessentially Knoxville. Enter Saloon 16. The old-school yet refined spot is nestled beyond the lobby in the back of the hotel and immediately transports guests once they walk through the swinging saloon doors.

Manning worked closely with the Graduate Hotels team to create Saloon 16. Filled with coveted, previously unseen memorabilia from Manning’s personal collection, the bar and restaurant is the ultimate destination for Vol fans of all ages. The menu offers beloved Knoxville staples like Cheese Bings, as well as an array of items named after the players, friends, and mentors that made the biggest impact on Manning’s college years.
Graduate Hotels also partnered with the Cleveland Clinic and Procter & Gamble to establish Graduate Cares, a COVID-19 response program. With Graduate Cares, guests and visitors can expect the health and safety of customers and associates prioritized at the forefront of the hotel experience, with an industry-leading cleanliness program that includes enhanced cleaning procedures and updated training systems.

Since opening in early August, Graduate Knoxville has focused on providing a central gathering place for the Knoxville community. The hotel has partnered with Rigazzi Mobile Yoga to host socially distant outdoor yoga, as well as pop-ups with Flourish Flower Truck and Oglewood Avenue to offer students and locals unique and mindful back-to-school activities. From inspired guest rooms and inviting communal spaces, to Big Orange pride and nostalgic imbibing at Saloon 16, there is something for everyone at the new Graduate Knoxville to feel at home, sweet home.