Rock On! Beloved UT Landmark Safely Moved to New Location

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The Rock, a beloved landmark and venue for student self-expression on the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, campus, is now in its new location.

On Wednesday, the Rock was moved about 275 feet diagonally across the street, from its old 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 was necessary because construction of the new 109,242-square-foot Student Health Center, set to begin this fall and take 18 months, would have left little space for the Rock, which students and others often paint multiple times per day.

Preparations to move the Rock were made during the past couple of weeks. Then, on Wednesday, workers used a massive crane to hoist the 97.5-ton hunk of Knox dolomite out the ground so it could be transported it to its new location. The move — which included a harrowing ride via a flatbed truck backing down Pat Head Summitt Street and straddling an asphalt-filled trench in the middle of the road — took all day.

In fact, as workers removed the Rock, they determined that the largest available truck in Knox County was simply not large enough to hold it, and a specialized heavy-hauling flatbed was brought in from LaFollette, Tenn. The Rock was finally settled into a freshly-dug pit in its new location at about 9 p.m., in the midst of a strong thunderstorm.

Dozens of students, faculty, staff, alumni and others watched throughout the day, applauding as the gigantic Rock was successfully uprooted and lifted by the crane.

Hundreds who couldn’t make it to the scene got frequent updates via UT Knoxville’s official Twitter feed, http://www.twitter.com/UTKnoxville, as well as updates and photos via the campus’ Facebook page.

When campus administrators determined that moving the Rock was the only option, student leaders were consulted and helped choose a place to relocate the Rock.

Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Jeff Maples said he thought the Rock’s new home is a good choice.

“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,” he said.

Betsey Creekmore, associate vice chancellor for space and facilities, said the Rock was discovered in 1966 during a campus expansion in the area now known as Fiji Island. UT administrators and construction officials decided to preserve the rock rather than destroying it. The huge boulder was pushed by bulldozer to the place where it sat until yesterday.

Creekmore said she enlisted the help of Bill Dunne, professor of earth and planetary science and associate dean of the College of Engineering, who took 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 because it indicated the Rock had been upended; its sediment layers were running vertically rather than horizontally.

“I think we’re all excited that the Rock’s move was a success — that the Rock survived intact and that it looks so ‘at home’ in its new location. The Rock has been — and will continue to be — a great UT tradition,” Maples said.

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/.

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