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Sears Tower Skydeck 

The Sears Tower Skydeck opens its lure for thrill-seekers Thursday. It’s called the Ledge and it gives the illusion of standing on air a few feet outside the building, 103 stories off the ground. (Pics)

 

It could put the Skydeck on the must-see list for tourists, right up there with the museums and Michigan Avenue shopping. It’s supposed to be an engineering marvel.

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The tower’s bosses speak assuringly of the Ledge withstanding every test the public can think of. Patrons will survey the city from four bays made up of three layers of half-inch thick glass.

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But I’m thinking of the “Crowd Crush” test, in which people jam into the bays, or the “Too Many Cheeseburgers” test, in which a family with a poor diet challenges the weight tolerances. And I can just envision the “Hyperactive Brat” test, with a couple of nervous adults venturing onto the glass just when somebody’s progeny starts jumping on it.

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Randy Stancik, the tower’s general manager, said the Ledge will handle it all and may be a little less scary than some imagine. He said he’s been on it five or six times.

“My reaction was, ‘Holy cow!’ ” he said. “I still get that feeling about how cool it is. You stand over the boats on the river. You see the different-colored taxis. You see the city not just out and about, but directly below you.” It’s a view for which Skydeck guests have clamored, he said.

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The best engineering minds at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, the tower’s original architects, designed the Ledge. Critical assistance came from MTH Industries of Hillside, which helped put the Bean in Millennium Park, and Chicago-based Berglund Construction. As to costs, Stancik will only say the Skydeck renovation, which includes new exhibits devoted to the city’s history and architecture, is a multimillion-dollar effort.

The Skydeck bays are retractable so they don’t block the window-washing equipment. Stancik said each one is designed to hold 5 tons, about the weight of three Toyota Camrys, while the city code required only a 2-ton limit.

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“Dare to stand out” is one tagline the tower will use for its attraction, although the Ledge is strictly optional for Skydeck visitors and included in the $14.95 admission price, which recently was increased $2.

The tower’s owners include New Yorkers Joseph Chetrit, Joseph Moinian and Steve Bederman plus Yisroel Gluck and John Huston of Skokie-based American Landmark Properties Ltd. They hope the changes will increase Skydeck attendance from the current 1.3 million people per year and help give the tower a new image for the 21st century.

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Their plan includes an array of work to cut the building’s energy consumption, plus the eventual construction of a hotel next door. It also includes renaming the tower after an incoming tenant, Willis Group Holdings Ltd, later this year.

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But for now, the Ledge is the tower’s leverage for attention and better financial returns.

Via Sun Times

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