A View From the Sears Tower's Ledge

By Marcus Gilmer in Miscellaneous on Jul 8, 2009 5:00PM

Last week, the Sears Tower's newest attraction opened to much fanfare: The Ledge. Located in the Tower's 103rd floor Skydeck, the Ledge consists of four retractable boxes (three are currently open and the fourth opens this fall) that stick out on the Tower's west face, allowing visitors to look straight down onto Wacker Drive. All 1,353 feet down. While most of the media got a look at the Ledge last week, Fellow Chicagoist staffer Prescott and I waited out the holiday and paid a visit yesterday when Skydeck General Manager Randy Stancik guided us through the new attraction.

Stancik told us last week's opening was the culmination of a plan that began in January 2008. "We really heard from the visitors," said Stancik. "We wanted to put the city at your feet, to give you that fifth view." Engineering of the Ledge took about a year and construction began in January of this year. Among the things that had to be considered were how much weight for each box to bear (five tons, fyi) and how even what kind of glass to use. "There's actually three half-inch pieces of glass right here and...what's the best viscosity to give you the best view through that glass?" asked Stancik. While there won't be enough data for a while to see if the Ledge brings an increase in visitors, Stancik said, "The key thing is watching the reactions. It varies from the people afraid of heights, the people looking forward to this, to the kids that literally run into it and even lay down."

Each box is designed to retract back into the Tower for cleaning and maintenance. As for bad weather, Stancik insists each is built to withstand "any winds and any temperature." The boxes have also been designed so that they can be properly defrosted during colder weather so that condensation won't obscure the view. Just clouds. Stancik's personal suggestion? Visit in the evening. "Seeing the city light up is amazing." If you take some photos you're pretty thrilled with, there's also a link on the Skydeck page where you can submit the pictures for a Daily Photo feature that displays in the Skydeck lobby.

After the jump, video courtesy of Prescott Carlson.