KNOXVILLE - It took six hours, but the University of Tennessee's iconic Rock has been hoisted out of the ground and onto a flatbed truck.
Now workers are waiting for a section of Pat Head Summitt Street to be paved before moving the 97.5 ton Knox dolomite rock 275 feet to its new home across the street.
The Rock has been a geologic billboard for student self-expression for years, a host to ever-changing painted messages and artwork.
"This is historic to say the least," said Alan Blizzard, a UT junior. "There are so many memories and one of the biggest traditions at UT is the Rock."
Workers began final preparations for the move around 8 a.m. today, using a crane to lift the rock out of the ground south of Volunteer Boulevard near the intersection of Pat Head Summitt Street.
UT administrators decided to move the Rock to make way for a new 109,242-square-foot Student Health Center.
"We looked at several options but finally concluded that moving the Rock was our only choice," Jeff Maples, senior associate vice chancellor for finance and administration, said in a statement.
To prepare the Rock's new site, workers dug up a portion of a parking lot near the Music Building and brought in extra dirt to raise the site. A hole will be dug at the new site to create a foundation for the Rock, which students often paint multiple times a day.
If the Rock, known to have a fissure, breaks in transit, it would be replaced and its pieces could be auctioned, Maples said.
Maples said it was important to move the Rock in the summer before the start of the fall semester.
"We need to move it during the summer while traffic is light on campus," he said.
More details as they develop online and in Thursday's News Sentinel.