Sunday, July 08, 2007

might as well be walking on the sun

The Sunsphere reopened to the public on Thursday!

Earlier today, my wife packed some salads in the cooler and we took our son downtown for a picnic in World's Fair Park and a ride up to the inside of the Sunsphere. One of the other tourists in the elevator recognized my voice from the radio, which is always surprising and amusing. I was happy to see the observation deck all cleaned up and looking nice. They had the air-conditioning cranked up, which was great on a hot day. Afterward we got a dark chocolate-covered pretzel rod for dessert at The South's Finest Chocolate Factory.

In May of 2004, the city let people see the Sunsphere "as is." I was not about to let an opportunity like that pass me by. The first thing I noticed as I stepped out of the elevator was that the observation deck had been infested with pigeons and their droppings. One of the other visiting citizens was a self-proclaimed expert on the structure. According to him, the builders avoided some red tape back in 1982 by claiming that the Sunsphere is only eight stories tall and therefore not subject to the regulations for taller buildings. Its actual height would be more like twenty-six stories if they counted the shaft. The first three floors are at the base of the tower. Four through eight are inside the ball. The fourth floor is the observation deck, at the bottom of the actual sphere. At the top is the eighth floor, which had some city offices. My then radio partner, Ashley, and I used our positions as "members of the media" to talk a city employee into letting us climb to the roof. We took a ladder from the eighth floor to an attic above the ceiling. Another ladder led to a hatch and the open air. There's not much room up there. Most of the space is taken up by air conditioning equipment. Ashley and I swapped cameras and snapped photos of each other.

Now that Knoxville's most visible landmark has reopened, I should notify Roadside America.

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Blogger Byron Chesney said...

Awesome post Frank. I haven't visited since they reopened. Can't wait to get up there!


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