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Tennessee town may change name to 'Rocky Top,' judge rules

By Tim Ghianni

(Reuters) - A small eastern Tennessee city can go ahead and change its name to Rocky Top, a federal judge has ruled, rejecting a challenge from a company that owns the rights to the bluegrass-tinged official state song.

Lake City, a town of about 1,800 that was known as Coal Creek until the 1930s after a major local industry, likely will become Rocky Top in July after a city council vote, Mayor Tim Sharp said Thursday.

Tennessee's legislature and governor already have agreed to the name change opposed by House of Bryant Publications, which asked a federal judge in Knoxville to grant an injunction and block the effort. U.S. District Court Chief Judge Thomas Varlan denied the request on Wednesday.

A company representative could not be reached on Thursday.

"When I found out the judge had ruled in our favor, I kinda shouted out," Sharp said. "It had been a long time coming."

The move to rename Lake City, which is about 22 miles (35 km) north of Knoxville, was supported by a development group planning several attractions if the city becomes Rocky Top.

Sharp said he would meet soon with the developers about the plans that include a motel with adjacent indoor-outdoor water park and IMAX theater within 18 months, followed later by an indoor railroad, laser tag venue and amusement park.

The song "Rocky Top" written in 1967 by Boudleaux and Felice Bryant is one of Tennessee's official state songs and is the unofficial fight song for the University of Tennessee Volunteers sports teams.

"Rocky Top," a lamentation by a big-city dweller who would like to return to the simpler life of that heretofore fictitious town, has been covered numerous times by many artists including Phish, Dolly Parton and Buck Owens.

Sharp said the Rocky Top name already has had an economic impact on the town, which plans a coal miners' museum next to city hall as part of a downtown revitalization effort.

(Reporting by Tim Ghianni in Nashville, Tennessee; Editing by David Bailey and Eric Walsh)

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