Visit Knoxville has announced that the Sunsphere base will be painted back to its original blue color, in Phase I of the plan to update and enhance the iconic structure. Phase II will see the construction of a new Sunsphere Visitors Center.
The Sunsphere was designed by architecture firm Community Tectonics and built for the 1982 World’s Fair, aligned with the theme of “Energy Turns the World”. The golden orb represented the energy of the sun, while the base was originally blue to blend with the color of the sky.
The Sunsphere has since been painted green, and Visit Knoxville, in partnership with the City of Knoxville, the Public Building Authority, and Knox County, will be managing the painting of the structure’s base to the original PANTONE® color Classic Blue 19-4052 TCX. CertaPro Painters plan to start on October 1, 2023, with a goal to complete Phase I of this project by the end of 2023. This will be a very visual transformation, with only minor inconveniences expected throughout the process that will be communicated to the public as they arise. Access to the 4th Floor Observation Deck and other private-use floors within the Sunsphere 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.”
Phase I will be the first utilization of the Sunsphere Fund. Visit Knoxville created the Sunsphere Fund with support from Knox County and the City of Knoxville in 2019 to preserve and maintain this historic structure. Monies from the fund are utilized for enhancements to the experience of the 4th floor Observation Deck. The goal is to enhance the structure for the enjoyment of groups and individuals for generations to come. The fund is operated and overseen by Visit Knoxville. The Sunsphere is owned by the City of Knoxville and promoted like other attractions by Visit Knoxville.
Following the completion of Phase I, Phase II will commence in 2024. This phase will encompass the construction of a new Visitors Center at the third level of the Sunsphere. This enclosed area will enhance the visitor experience, and will include an expanded retail space, additional brochures and visitor information, and provide a clear view of World’s Fair Park. Phase II is expected to be complete by the end of 2024.
Visit Knoxville participated in the conceptual process with the East Tennessee Community Design Center (ETCDC) and through this partnership the vision was vetted, and organizations were connected to develop the planning for both phases of this project. McCarty Holsaple McCarty Architects (MHM) is serving as architects and engineers and The Christman Company is serving as construction manager for the buildout of the Sunsphere Visitors Center. 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, 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.”
Since reopening in February 2022, the Sunsphere has seen over 78,000 visitors from over 50 countries around the globe. These enhancements to this iconic structure will continue to welcome locals and visitors alike for years to come.