Rock On!

The Rock, a beloved landmark and venue for student self-expression on the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, campus, will soon have a new home.

Map of the RockThis summer, the Rock will be moved about 275 feet diagonally across the street, from its current location south of Volunteer Boulevard, near the intersection of Pat Head Summitt Street, to its new location, north of Volunteer Boulevard, near the intersection of Pat Head Summitt Street, near the Music Building. The move is necessary because construction of the new Student Health Center, set to begin this fall and take 18 months, will leave little space for the Rock, which students and others often paint multiple times per day.

“For generations, the Rock has been an unofficial message board for our campus,” Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek said. “Over the years, tens of thousands of students and others have painted it with their messages — from proposals to birthday wishes, from rallying cries to protest notes. It’s a UT Knoxville icon. Knowing that, we’ve worked hard to come up with a plan that allows us to preserve tradition as we expand our campus facilities.”

Interim Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Jeff Maples said plans for the site have changed over time and the decision to put an expanded, 109,242-square-foot Student Health Center there won’t leave adequate space for the Rock. This move will be the landmark’s second confirmed move in campus history.

“We looked at several options, but finally concluded that moving the Rock was our only choice. We’ve chosen a new location that is an equally high-profile area,” Maples said. “The new location will enhance our plan to extend the pedestrian walkway, add green space and develop a gathering place for students in an ‘arts quad’ concept.”

Photo of The RockMaples and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Tim Rogers said student leaders were consulted about the plan.

Student Government Association President Laura Nishida said she is OK with the move because of the efforts to keep the Rock as close as possible to its current location.

“Like many other students, I’ve painted the Rock and I love the Rock,” she said. “I’m glad the administration realizes how important the Rock is to us and has come up with a plan that will allow us to keep the Rock and continue our tradition.”

“I hope students are supportive, come out to watch the move and turn the whole thing into a celebration of the Rock.”

2008-09 SGA President Jeff Wilcox toured the area with administrators last semester to find the best place to relocate the Rock.

“SGA has for years worked to keep the Rock where it is,” he said. “But with the construction of the new health center, we realized there was no option but to move it. Still, we wanted to find a place where people could have the same Rock experience.

“I think we succeeded. The new location has plenty of visibility for campus and game day traffic. It’s a change, yes, but yet it allows one of our greatest traditions to continue.”

Betsey Creekmore, associate vice chancellor for space and facilities, said the Rock was moved to its current location soon after it was discovered in 1966 on land approximately where the old Calvary Baptist Church stood — the area now known as Fiji Island.

Another photo of the RockA campus expansion was under way and “the A.B. Long Company was grading the area for the streets, roads and buildings that were planned. Workers discovered what had seemed to be a relatively small boulder was in fact a very large rock,” Creekmore said.

UT administrators Ed Boling and Joe Johnson took Long’s suggestion of keeping the rock rather than destroying it. A bulldozer was used to push the Rock to its current location.

Creekmore said she enlisted the help of Bill Dunne, professor of earth and planetary science and associate dean of the College of Engineering, to take a small sample of the Rock for analysis in December 2007.

Dunne’s analysis determined the Rock is Knox dolomite — a common type of local rock that is 500 million years old. Further, his analysis confirmed the move and indicated the Rock was turned when it was relocated because it’s sitting with its sediment layers running vertically rather than horizontally.

During the next few weeks, workers will be examining the Rock to determine the best way to move it. They’ll also be preparing a foundation for the Rock at the new site.

Yet another photo of the RockMaples said he hopes the actual move will take place during July.

“We need to move it during the summer while traffic is light on campus. However, we plan to announce the day and time so the campus community can watch,” he said.

In the event the Rock can’t be moved without being destroyed — or if the Rock, which is known to have a fissure, is damaged during transport — a new Rock will be erected, Maples said.

“While we hope the Rock can be moved without incident, we want to be ready if something unexpected does occur. We’ve made arrangements to get a ‘replacement rock’ if necessary. We will preserve this campus tradition.”

A celebration of the Rock is being planned for Aug. 18, during Welcome Week. More details will be announced as plans are finalized.

Share your photos and stories about the Rock at http://www.utk.edu/therock/ or by adding a comment below.  Thank you!

9 Comments on “Rock On!

  1. UT Administration,

    I was saddened to hear that the Rock is being moved. This seems to be needless endeavour. You can’t tell me that you could have had the architect of the new student health center intergrate the Rock into the landscape of the new building. I’ll even go one step further. Intergrating this landmark into the design of the new building would preserve the landmark’s place not only to the student body and all alumni but save the university thousands of dollars in senseless cost to move the Rock and pour another concrete garden on campus. Don’t move the Rock. Save some money. Keep what vegetation we have left on campus.

    How do I file an injunction to stop this?

    Respectfully,
    Joel Bliven
    Class of ’03

  2. What Betsey Creekmore says is very true. I grew up attending Calvary Baptist Church. When the church relocated to Kingston PIke (I was about 14 years old at the time), the old building was demolished and, the rock was discovered under the foundation of the church building. I always thought that was ironic since Christ said “Upon my rock will I build my church”.
    Mary Archer Koike
    Class of 1971 – BS
    MA, 1980

  3. It does make me wonder just how much it is going to cost to move The Rock AND who is going to ultimately foot the bill.
    would it be cheaper to bury it under the new building’s foundation and build a nice new lightweight fiberglass rock at the new site. come on you UT engineers, let’s get calculating on this one.

  4. I’m often intrigued by something very similar in our hometown of Brainerd, MN. We have a rock by the ski hill that has been painted several times a year for the past 40-50 years at least. Every year someone writes something else. Maybe a marriage proposal, a birthday greeting, or just a generic message. It would be interesting to see how big the actual rock is and how much of it is actually paint.

    It has become a landmark though (pretty much) and when you pass the rock you know that in just a few seconds you will be at the ski hill.

  5. Anybody who questions if the Rock is a big deal might be a Volunteer fan, but it’s obvious they were never a UTK student.

    The Rock has been the collective billboard of the expression of UT students for decades.

    Paint the Rock, but don’t pound it…

  6. I used to be visit the rock in the age that there is resident at south of Volunteer Boulevard, near the intersection of Pat Head Summitt Street. Nice to hear the news that it move !!! Wow !!!

  7. What Betsey Creekmore says is very true. I grew up attending Calvary Baptist Church. When the church relocated to Kingston PIke (I was about 14 years old at the time), the old building was demolished and, the rock was discovered under the foundation of the church building. I always thought that was ironic since Christ said “Upon my rock will I build my church”.
    Mary Archer Koike
    Class of 1971 – BS
    MA, 1980