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Cedar Bluff Middle student has ideas for Sunsphere

Cameron Crowson sits in front of his computer displaying a picture of him at the Sunsphere in downtown Knoxville.- Tracy K. Morgan/Special to the farragutpress
A grassroots movement is underway to revitalize the Sunsphere in downtown Knoxville.

Cameron Crowson, a 13-year-old student at Cedar Bluff Middle School, has decided the time has come to turn the Sunsphere back into a Knoxville tourist attraction.

"What do you see when you look at this postcard?" he asked, as he gazed at a promotional postcard of the World’s Fair Park with the Sunsphere prominently displayed.

"It’s one of our main attractions, but it’s closed."

Crowson pointed out that images of the Sunsphere dominate Knoxville’s landscape.

"It’s the symbol of Knoxville," he said, "but if I had never been to Knoxville I would look at it and think, ‘What the heck is that?’"

Crowson’s mother Donna Justice added, "Cameron’s beef is that everywhere you look there is the Sunsphere. People want to claim it as Knoxville, but it’s utterly ridiculous because it’s an abandoned building."

Crowson has been inside the Sunsphere only once. However, Justice said she couldn’t remember a time when her son was not interested in the Sunsphere.

"I have a photo of it in my locker, oddly enough," Crowson said. "Sometimes in school I could not stop thinking about it."

He hopes the citizens of Knoxville will share his preoccupation.

"I want Knoxville’s support," Crowson said of his desire to see the Sunsphere up and running again. "Somebody should care, because it’s about city pride, respecting and being proud of our city. We can be involved, we can have our Sunsphere back."

In January, Crowson began his campaign in earnest when he sent a letter to Knox County’s public building authority. They referred him to the city of Knoxville.

"We decided we’d call the mayor’s office," Justice said.

Within days Crowson and his mother met with Bill Lyons, senior director of the Department of Economic Development for the City of Knoxville.

"I was most impressed with his interest in the Sunsphere and his appreciation of what a meaningful symbol it still is," Lyons said of his meeting with Crowson.

"He was knowledgeable about its past and concerned that it was in disuse right now," Lyons added. "It was very gratifying to meet a young person with such a developed sense of community."

Crowson learned that approximately $700,000 would be needed to refurbish the Sunsphere’s infrastructure.

"That kind of blew me away," he said, but he did not let the cost deter him from his dream. "There’s got to be a lot of other Knoxville residents who want this to happen," Crowson added.

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