Visit Knoxville announces beginning construction on new Sunsphere Welcome Center

Published 4:53 pm Wednesday, March 20, 2024

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KNOXVILLE — Visit Knoxville announced Wednesday that construction will commence on the Sunsphere Welcome Center by the end of March, marking Phase II of the plan to upgrade and enrich the iconic structure.

In Phase I, completed on November 17, 2023, the Sunsphere was restored to its original PANTONE® color, Classic Blue 19-4052 TCX, by CertaPro Painters, in collaboration with the City of Knoxville, the Public Building Authority, and Knox County.

Phase II will focus on constructing the Welcome Center on the third-floor level of the Sunsphere, street level on Clinch Avenue. The Welcome Center aims to enhance visitor experience with staffed ticketing, expanded retail, brochures, and information in an enclosed space overlooking World’s Fair Park. It is slated for completion by the end of 2024.

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“We are thrilled to offer an elevated experience to visitors and locals with the new Sunsphere Welcome Center,” said Kim Bumpas, President of Visit Knoxville. “The recent color restoration of the structure has already made an impact, and Phase II will further enhance its appeal.”

“These renovations continue to showcase Knoxville’s iconic structure, welcoming all to this standout attraction,” said Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon. “This project exemplifies successful partnerships and will undoubtedly be a highlight of our city’s downtown.”

The Welcome Center’s entrance canopy will feature a solar array facing the Knoxville Convention Center, honoring the 1982 World’s Fair theme, “Energy Turns the World.” The solar component is made possible in partnership with Chroma Energy Group. Inside, panoramic windows will offer views of World’s Fair Park, alongside a unique skylight feature.

Current ticketing allows for online purchases via QR codes, with guests meeting at the base level of the Sunsphere for access to the 4th Floor Observation Deck. The Welcome Center will enable walk-up ticket purchases and provide a climate-controlled waiting space for guests to relax and shop before or after their visit to the Observation Deck.

Additional improvements include a new roof and exterior paint treatment on the third-floor level, with each facet painted a different color, reminiscent of a Rubik’s Cube, a nod to the 1982 World’s Fair. The Sunsphere will remain open during construction, with any closures posted on

Visit Knoxville partnered with the East Tennessee Community Design Center (ETCDC) in the conceptual process, connecting organizations for the project’s planning. McCarty Holsaple McCarty Architects (MHM) is the architect, with engineering by Haines Structural Group and Engineering Services Group, Inc. Construction management is handled by The Christman Company.

“We are honored to be part of the Sunsphere Welcome Center’s design,” said Nathan Honeycutt, Principal at McCarty Holsaple McCarty. “This legacy project will leave a lasting impression on Knoxville.”

“Our organization built the Sunsphere for the 1982 World’s Fair, and we’re thrilled to enhance the existing structure,” said Marty Gibbs, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Knoxville Operations of The Christman Company. “The Sunsphere will shine even brighter with these renovations.”

Phase I and II are funded through the Sunsphere Fund, created by Visit Knoxville with support from Knox County and the City of Knoxville in 2019. The fund, operated by Visit Knoxville, aims to preserve and enhance the Sunsphere for future generations.

A timelapse of the painting transformation from green to blue is available on Follow the Sunsphere on Facebook and Instagram for updates on the Welcome Center’s progression.