Once again, the Sunsphere is in trouble----not the structure itself, but the business operating on the 5th and 6th floors--Southern Graces Catering and Event Planners. Unfortunately, the feasibility study done on the Sunsphere before it was built suggested it would be very difficult to make a go if it in the Sunsphere after the crowds drawn by the fair were gone. As I have written and said many times, "If no one other business has made a go of it, there must be good reasons."
To make it simple, before any buidling can be built, all sorts of studies have to be done. One done for the Sunsphere was regarding the kinds of businesses that might be successful ONCE THE WORLD'S FAIR WAS GONE. The study found many things, especially that NO business could be successful unless the problem of parking was settled.(and it has not been---it has been made worse)
It is almost impossible for a business to make a success in the Sunsphere due to l. parking; 2. the cost to haul goods and materialsl up the elevators; 3. the slowness of the elevators; 4. the size of useable space---the small area of useable space eliminates events hosting large numbers of people, 5. traffic patterns of people and vehicles (folks do not just drop by the Sunsphere---it is a "destination" travel site), 6. the huge expense of utilities (upwards of $100,000 per year), and 7. the huge rent that will be charged (Sukenik is charged $10,500 per month--that's a lot of overhead).
Other huge mistakes have been made: l. Too much money was spent on renovating the Sunsphere. The renovations were done to a specific set of tastes, not for what might be best for the public---a very dark granite bar was installed which is just awful----too dark in an already dark room. 2. Trying to make the Sunsphere a place for the elite to spend their money----too bad---we are not an elite kind of town---we are more hot dogs and beer than hard crackers and cucumbers. 3. The food is awful---just horrible---complaints I have heard about the current food being served go like this, "The food is so hedious when you eat one bite, you have to spit it out and wash your mouth out with vinegar." 4. Many, many customers wanted to rent the Sunsphere for an event, but the prices were inflated. More business has been turned away than used the facilities due to higher than needed prices. (Who is going to pay $3,000 to rent that place for a couple of hours? Not many, however, many would pay $300 for 2 hours---There is value in making the prices affordable). Many customers phoned asking about renting the Sunsphere and were treated like low-rent trash.
Knoxville is not Boston or New York City----we are just plain folks here and we know how to find value when we spend our money. Customers needed value and good food and they do know the difference.
Of all the people living in Knoxvlle, I love the Sunsphere as much as anyone, but I also know what it takes to run a successful business---the customers is always right---when you do not listen to the customer---your business is doomed.
The Sunsphere should be affordable for all budgets.