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Willis Tower Fast Facts

CNN Editorial Research

Here’s some background information about Willis Tower, formerly the Sears Tower, located in Chicago.


The Sears Tower was the world’s tallest building until 1996, when it was surpassed by the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

With clear weather, four states are viewable up to 50 miles away: Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.

Some 25,000 people enter the skyscraper every day.

About 1.5 million people go up to the Skydeck visitors’ observation deck on the 103rd floor each year.

Security cameras are located in all public areas of the building.

Security personnel monitor the building 24 hours a day.

One of the first major buildings to have a sprinkler system.


Structural height 1,450 feet or 110 floors

Height with the two antennas – 1,730 feet

Height of Skydeck/103rd floor – 1,354 feet

Lowest level – 43 feet below Franklin St.

Building size – 4.5 million gross square feet

Weight – 222,500 tons or 445 million pounds

Cost to build – $150 million

Windows – 16,100

Building exterior – black aluminum and bronze-tinted glass

Architectural firm – Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Architect – Bruce Graham

Structural engineer – Fazlur Khan


1970 – Construction begins.

1973 – Construction is completed and the building opens to the public.

1974 – The Skydeck opens for visitors.

1994 – Sears, Roebuck & Company sells the building to reduce its debt.

1996 – The Petronas Twin Towers surpass the Sears Tower in height to become the world’s tallest buildings at 1,483 feet each. The Sears Tower becomes the world’s third-tallest building.

December 1997 – The building is sold to a Canadian real estate firm, TrizecHahn Corp.

March 2009 – The owners of the Sears Tower announce that the building will be renamed Willis Tower, after new tenant Willis Group Holdings (Willis Towers Watson as of 2015).

July 2009 – The Sears Tower is officially renamed Willis Tower. The same month, an attraction called the Ledge opens on the 103rd floor, with glass balconies and a view down 1,353 feet to the street below.

May 28, 2014 – Cracks develop in the protective coating on a glass sightseeing ledge. Officials say no one was ever in danger.

March 16, 2015 – The Blackstone Group announces it has signed a deal to buy Willis Tower for $1.3 billion.

2016 – Paul Kurzawa, a film executive from the DreamWorks Animation studio, is hired to oversee redevelopment of the tower in an effort to boost tourism.

February 1, 2017 – Blackstone Group unveils its plans for $500 million in tower renovations, including revamping the lobby, adding retail and dining spaces and a rooftop garden, among other things.

June 10, 2019 – The protective layer covering the tower’s glass SkyDeck splinters. No one was in any danger, Willis Tower says.

March 9, 2020 – Willis Tower Watson announces an agreement to combine with Aon plc. The new company will be named Aon. Keeping or changing the name of the building was not addressed.

May 18, 2020-May 30, 2020 – The building is temporary closed due to flooding following record rainfall.

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