KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Sunsphere base in Knoxville is being painted back to its original color as a part of the plan to update and enhance the structure. The plan also includes the construction of a new Sunsphere Visitors Center.
The Sunsphere was designed for the 1982 World’s Fair by architecture firm Community Tectonics to fit the theme of “Energy Turns the World.” The golden orb was meant to represent the energy of the sun with the base was originally blue to blend with the sky. The base has since been painted green.
The work is set to begin on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, with the goal to finish by the end of 2023. Visit Knoxville said that access to the 4th Floor Observation Deck and other private-use floors should not be heavily impacted.
“It is very rewarding to see the collaborative work put into these renovation plans,” said Kim Bumpas, President of Visit Knoxville. “We cannot wait to share the completed project with the community and visitors in future years.”
“The Sunsphere is an iconic symbol of our city, and these renovations will have a significant impact,” said City of Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon. “This project will help us showcase our past while also introducing visitors to the vibrant, welcoming city we are today! We are proud of the partnerships that are helping bring this vision to life and I look forward to the Sunsphere, once again, serving as a gateway to everything downtown has to offer.”
The funding for the painting is coming from the Sunsphere Fund, which was created by Visit Knoxville in 2019 to preserve and maintain the historic structure. The fund was previously used for enhancements to the 4th-floor Observation Deck.
The construction of a new Vistors Center at the third level of the Sunsphere is scheduled to begin in 2024 and be finished by the end of the year. This new center will include an expanded retail space, additional brochures and visitor information, and provide a clear view of World’s Fair Park.
McCarty Holsaple McCarty Architects is serving as architects and engineers and The Christman Company is serving as construction manager for the project. Visit Knoxville added that both organizations were involved in the original creation of the Sunsphere.
“The design for the Sunsphere Visitors Center will engage with the original structure in a modern way,” said Nathan Honeycutt, Principal at McCarty Holsaple McCarty. “This collaboration highlights Knoxville’s spirit to preserve, protect, and enhance one of our most cherished representations of Knoxville.”
“We are honored to be involved in these developments 40 plus years on,” said Marty Gibbs, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Knoxville Operations of The Christman Company. “The Christman Company built the Sunsphere for the 1982 World’s Fair, and we’re pleased to be a part of the present-day renovations.”
“The updates to the Sunsphere will result in a better visitor experience as well as a more energy-efficient facility,” said Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs. “That’s a win for everyone.”
Visit Knoxville hopes that these enhancements will continue to welcome people for years to come.