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How Knoxville, Tennessee Got Its Own Sun

Sunsphere – Knoxville, TN

Knoxville, Tennessee, is known for a variety of different things. These include the Tennessee Volunteers football team, its famous Gay Street, Market Square plaza, and of course, the Sunsphere. Whether you grow up here or just come to make a quick visit, the Sunsphere is always a sight to see. Besides the intricate structure, the history behind the Sunsphere is even more intriguing. The Sunsphere and The World’s Fair Park were to host the 1982 World’s Fair, formally known as the Knoxville International Energy Exposition.

Why Build a New Sun?

In 1982, Knoxville held the last successful World’s Fair held in America. As a symbol of the World’s Fair, the Sunsphere was created and served as a restaurant and overlook the surrounding city. During the fair, 22 nations celebrated the fair whose theme was “Energy Turns the World.” As a symbol to our galaxy’s sun, it provides endless amounts of energy to our solar system. Over 11 million people gathered in this “scruffy city” during that time. Some of those people included president Ronald Reagan, Philippines president, first lady Ferdinand, Imelda Marcos, and the crowned prince of Jordan, Hassan bin Talal.

Building the Sun

The architecture firm Community Tectonics designed this themed structure for the 1982 World’s Fair. As architects began to develop this structure, many factors contribute to the overall theme and layout. The Sunsphere represents the sun; the architects would make each plane of glass with 24-karat gold. Not only were these panels made with 24-karat gold, but this idea also ended up costing around $1,000 per panel at the time of construction. Funny enough, in 1982, the tower color was blue to represent the sky. Today it is forest green, but people who have ties to Knoxville will always see it as an iconic symbol.

The Observation Deck

In 1999, the city decided to open the observation deck overlooking the surrounding city of Knoxville. It was quickly closed to hold offices for the Public Building Authority. The reason being was so that they could oversee the newly forming Convention Center’s construction. While the city finished the convention center in 2001, the observation deck remained closed until late 2007. Mayor Haslam held his inaugural address in the arena of the Sunsphere for his returning term in office. Today, the Sunsphere’s observation deck remains open to the public free of charge. This landmark has inspired some of our coolest designs in the store make sure to check out our t-shirt and tote bag featuring the Knoxville skyline as well as a Sunsphere t-shirt.

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