The Sunsphere was constructed for the 1982 World's Fair and during that time, it served as the symbol to the Fair. It was also home to a full service restaurant and the Observation Deck, which used to cost $2.00 for the elevator ride up to visit. The Sunsphere closed to the public with the Fair's end and remained vacant or underutilized for most of its post-fair life. The Sunsphere and the Tennessee Amphitheater are the only structures that remain from the 1982 World's Fair.
The city briefly reopened the Observation Deck sometime in 1999, but reclosed it so that the Public Building Authority could use the space for offices to oversee the construction of the Knoxville Convention Center. The Convention Center was complete in 2001, but the Observation Deck remained closed following its completion.
However, in 2005, Mayor Bill Haslam announced that the Sunsphere and Tennessee Amphitheater would be renovated for public use. In 2007 he announced that they would be renovated without use of taxpayer's money. Later that year, the Sunsphere's Observation Deck reopened to the public free of charge and Mayor Haslam held his Inaugural Address, for his second term in office, in the Amphitheater. In early 2008, privately-owned businesses took up residence on the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth levels of the Sunsphere.