Knoxville's Sunsphere has seen several changes in the past month and will see more in the weeks to come.
Visit Knoxville, in partnership with the City of Knoxville and the Public Building Authority, will renovate the observation deck on the fourth level of the Sunsphere. This is projected to be complete by early March and will involve updating information currently on the deck for the first time since 2007.
According to Kim Bumpas, president of Visit Knoxville, the new information will tell Knoxville's story in today's words.
"(The Sunsphere) is a great place to showcase our destination," Bumpas said. "Because when you're up there you can see the entire city and county, and I think that's a missed opportunity if it's dated."
The Sunsphere's levels have gone through long periods of vacancy and served various purposes since the initial construction for the World's Fair in 1982, according to the World's Fair Park website. Other than a brief period of time in 1999 and use for construction offices, the observation deck was closed until 2007. UT campus, downtown and the surrounding areas can be seen from this level.
The Icon Ultra Lounge, located one level above the observation deck, just completed changes as well. Although the changes of both levels are independent, Bumpas said these changes are ultimately what the Sunsphere needs.
"I don't know back in 1982 whatever the long term vision of the Sunsphere was, but ... it is a structure that sits in the heart of our downtown that people see the minute they drive in and it should be celebrated like that," Bumpas said. "I think that the restaurant/night life that can be created there in addition for someone to be able to go up there and explore is huge. It's taking the Sunsphere to places it should be."
The change in concept of the Icon Ultra Lounge makes it a restaurant and bar, instead of the previous bar and night club, according to Icon manager Dan Tremaine. The hours were changed to fit the new atmosphere. Icon was previously open until 3 a.m. on weekends and now closes at midnight.
Icon also focuses more on food since the change. The menu is centered around local product and everything is made in house.
"Unfortunately, it's only our floor and the observation deck that are open to the public," Tremaine said. "You're trying to attract a general population. You want everyday people to come and enjoy dinner and watch the sunset."
Bumpas sees the Sunsphere as a "satellite visitor's center" and hoped to capture the story of Knoxville with these renovations.
"It's part of our history and it's a rich part of our history," Bumpas said. "We need to tell our visitors that this is a place to go to learn about Knoxville and see all of Knoxville.
"Once we get the renovations done we want to tell the story of 'this is the place you can go.' That is a relevant message for people that live here and visit."