KNOXVILLE, TN (March 20, 2024) – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Visit Knoxville announces today that construction will begin on the Sunsphere Welcome Center at the end of March, as part of Phase II of the plan to update and enhance the iconic structure.

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

Phase II will entail the construction of the Welcome Center on the third-floor level of the Sunsphere (street level on Clinch Avenue). The Welcome Center will enhance the visitor experience by providing staffed ticketing, expanded retail, brochures and information in an enclosed space overlooking World’s Fair Park. Phase II is expected to be completed by the end of 2024.

“We are so excited to offer an elevated experience to visitors and locals alike with the new Sunsphere Welcome Center,” said Kim Bumpas, President of Visit Knoxville. “The beautiful color change of the structure has already made an impact, and this second phase will enhance the vision even more.”

“These renovations continue to highlight the status of Knoxville’s iconic structure, welcoming all to this standout attraction,” said City of Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon. “This could not be done without the participation of key partnerships to bring this vision to life, and we know that the Sunsphere Welcome Center will be a highlight of our city’s downtown.”

The Welcome Center’s entrance canopy will be topped with a solar array facing the Knoxville Convention Center on the east side of the Sunsphere. This will establish a formal entry to the attraction, while the solar array is a nod to the theme of the 1982 World’s Fair: “Energy Turns the World”. The solar component of this project was made possible with partnership from Chroma Energy Group. The interior of the Welcome Center will feature a panorama of windows facing west, overlooking World’s Fair Park. The interior will also include a unique skylight feature, where visitors will be able to look up directly to view the outline of the sphere.

The current ticketing process allows for online ticket purchasing utilizing a QR code, where guests must meet at the base level of the Sunsphere (World’s Fair Park level) at their appointed time slot in order to go up to the 4th Floor Observation Deck. The new Welcome Center will allow walk-up ticket purchases, as well as a climate-controlled waiting space for guests where they can relax and shop before or after their visit to the Observation Deck. Upon renovation completion, guests to the 4th Floor Observation Deck will enter the Sunsphere from the third-floor level Welcome Center.

Other key improvements include a new roof on the third-floor level. The third-floor level will also be receiving a paint treatment on the exterior brick. There are six sides to this level, and each facet will be painted a different color, mimicking the colors of a Rubik’s Cube. (The Rubik's Cube is a 3-D combination puzzle invented in 1974 by Hungarian Ernő Rubik. The world’s largest Rubik’s Cube was a gift from Hungary during the 1982 World’s Fair and resides inside the Knoxville Convention Center.) The colors will be red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and the Welcome Center will be white.

The Sunsphere will remain open throughout the construction process, with anticipated closures as needed. All closures will be posted on The third-floor level will be closed to the public throughout the renovation. Visitors to the 4th Floor Observation Deck will still meet at the base of the Sunsphere for their reservations.

Visit Knoxville participated in the conceptual process with the East Tennessee Community Design Center (ETCDC). Throughout 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 architect in partnership with Haines Structural Group and Engineering Services Group, Inc. for engineering.  The Christman Company is serving as construction manager for the buildout of the Sunsphere Welcome Center. Both organizations were involved in the original creation of the Sunsphere.

“We are honored to be a part in the design for the Sunsphere Welcome Center,” said Nathan Honeycutt, Principal at McCarty Holsaple McCarty. “This is a legacy project, and it will make a lasting impression on Knoxville’s most beloved structure.”

“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. “Forty plus years later, the Sunsphere will shine even brighter with these renovations.”

Phase I and II of the Sunsphere renovations are utilizations 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.

A timelapse of the entire painting transformation from green to blue was filmed in partnership with RBA Marketing and can be viewed on Follow the Sunsphere on Facebook, and Instagram to stay up to date on the Sunsphere Welcome Center progression.

Welcome Center Rendering

Welcome Center Rendering

Visit Knoxville (Knoxville Convention and Visitors Bureau) is the official CVB for the City of Knoxville and Knox County. Visit Knoxville is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, private company that works together with the community, business leaders and local and state government to further develop Knoxville as a premier leisure, meetings and travel destination. Tourism is the second highest grossing industry in the state of Tennessee. Knoxville/Knox County annually produces over $1 billion in travel spending. For more information, visit and follow on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Kristen Combs
Director of Communications
Visit Knoxville