Signs of change in Rocky Top

A place's name gives it an identity, but when times are tough, sometimes change is needed. 6-27-14

An East Tennessee city hopes a name change will improve its future.

The city was founded as Coal Creek and became Lake City in the 1930s. A last minute decision from a federal judge and a city council vote Thursday allowed the city to officially change its name to Rocky Top.

"It's a proud day to be a Rocky Top citizen," said Brian Brown, a Rocky Top resident, Friday afternoon.

Brown stopped by city hall to pick up a copy of the city's charter and a ceremonial bill print from the state legislature.

"I just want to frame it, put it up as a keepsake," he said. "Maybe I can show my grandkids someday and say I was there when it happened."

The city of about 1,800 people has struggled to keep jobs in town. Businessman and County Commissioner Tim Isbel said poverty is high and many residents drive outside the city to find work. He said the name change gives the opportunity to make a fresh start.

"Everyone who has a business here realizes that Lake City needs something," Isbel said. "Now we have it. We have the opportunity."

He is on a board of local businessmen who plans to develop Rocky Top into a tourist attraction. Isbel and the board have promised the city investors would pump millions of dollars into the city if the name changed.

"We've already earmarked land for a water park. We would like to see the water park come in first. It's an indoor/outdoor water park. And the indoor part is all glass. It's got prisms in the top that was designed by a Disney creator and it will have four constant rainbows inside," Isbel said.

Isbel said, for him, it's not about profit. It's about the impact it will have on the people.

"Everyone who's on that board has a real genuine interest in developing things for this community," he said.

The city is in the process of getting estimates for all new signs around town.

City recorder Chris Phillips estimate the signs, logos, and emergency car stickers will total about $5,000. He said the TDOT signs on the interstate will cost them about $30,000. He said the city's budget includes these costs.


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