From the News Sentinel’s report:
At 5:08 p.m. Thursday, Tim Sharp, then the mayor of Lake City, excitedly shouted “Yes!”
He’d just received a text from one of the city’s attorneys in its 11th-hour trademark battle that had been underway that afternoon in federal court in Knoxville.
Sharp had learned that Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas Varlan had just denied a last-minute move for an injunction filed by House of Bryant Publications, which holds the rights to the iconic song “Rocky Top.”
House of Bryant had again filed legal action, seeking to prevent Lake City from changing its name.
But with the judge’s ruling, members of Lake City’s City Council had the green light to ratify a municipal name change. And with a brief roll call, they became the Rocky Top City Council.
Some 200 residents and others gathered in Lake City Middle School’s auditorium for the special meeting burst into applause after the ratification vote.
A large new temporary sign with the new municipal moniker that will go over the city’s current welcome sign at the northern exit of Interstate 75 was rolled out for the crowd’s approval while a ditty devoted to Rocky Top and penned by a local songwriter played in the background.
The vote ended a monthslong effort to win the name change, sought by a group of developers as their precondition for plans to jump-start a depressed economy in the city, home to some 1,800 residents.
That effort, started last year, included an initial go-ahead vote by City Council last year followed by a private act approved by lawmakers and Gov. Bill Haslam. It then bogged down in legal entanglements.
A group titled Rocky Top Marketing and Manufacturing Inc. is eyeing an assortment of tourist attractions, from a children’s museum to a laser park to a water park.
“Now the flood gates are open,” proclaimed Brad Coriell, the group’s official designer, after Thursday’s vote.
“One of the major problems we had was investors would not come in until our legal problems were over, and we were Rocky Top,” Coriell said.