Chicago’s Sears Tower to Open Glass-Bottom Skydeck in June


sears-tower-chicago4-Foot Ledge Walkway Will Let Visitors Look 103 Stories Straight Down
Sears Tower – and it’s still called that for the time being – will invite its Skydeck visitors to enjoy a view usually reserved for window-washers and superheroes.
It’ll be a walk on the high side as visitors on the observation deck step into glass enclosures that extend 4.3 feet beyond the building. Beneath their feet in dizzyness-inducing splendor will be the city itself, 103 stories below, with an inch and a half of glass between person and pavement.ยป Click to enlarge image Four glassed-in outcroppings on the west side of the Sears Skydeck let visitors feel like they’re floating over the city below. The ledge was inspired by similar decks at the Grand Canyon and Toronto’s CN Tower.

The attraction, called the Ledge, should open by early June and is part of a multimillion dollar renovation of the tourist spaces at the nation’s tallest building, said Randy Stancik, Skydeck general manager.

He said the Ledge was inspired by glass-floored thrills at the Grand Canyon and Toronto’s CN Tower. The plan is to attract more Skydeck visitors, especially jaded locals who haven’t visited the tower in years.

“This definitely will be something new to take from the experience, a new Skydeck memory,” Stancik said. About 1.3 million people visit the Skydeck every year.

Stancik realizes the illusion of a mid-air suspension isn’t for everyone. But the daredevils will be enclosed by glass.

Seeing foreheads pressed to the Skydeck windows, Stancik knew people want to look down as well as out.

The four enclosures are on the west side of the tower so you can look straight down to the ground. On other sides, downward views are interrupted by setbacks from the wider floors below.

The enclosures are retractable: they move inside so window-washing equipment isn’t obstructed. Stancik said the Ledges will be available in all kinds of weather.

The Ledges are included in Skydeck admission, which jumps a buck today to $14.95 for ages 12 and up. It’s $10.50 for kids 3 to 11. The price increase is in preparation for a Skydeck upgrade that also includes new exhibits highlighting Chicago’s history, culture and tourism attractions, including a display that lets viewers rise the equivalent of 103 stories above Wrigley Field.

The Skydeck changes are part of a plan to make the iconic building more profitable.

Later this summer, the name will change to the Willis Tower, for a global insurance firm that leased space in the building.

The owners also are considering painting or recladding the building in silver to give it a contemporary look. Also under discussion is building a hotel next to the tower.

{Chicago Sun-Times/ Newscenter-Elisha Ferber}