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New Willis Tower observatory attractions may include rappelling from the 103rd floor

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The upgrades would see the observatory expanded to two levels and tourist capacity doubled

Rendering via Crain’s

The owners of Chicago’s tallest building are exploring several thrilling enhancements for the Willis Tower’s so-called Skydeck including a chance to rappel—or descend by rope and harness—from the 103rd to 102nd floor inside a two-story enclosed glass box attached to the iconic tower’s exterior. Another proposed attraction dubbed “Ledgewalk” would allow visitors to stroll along a glass ledge with an open top more than 1,300 feet in the air.

A comprehensive overhaul of the tower’s observation deck was hinted at last month when New York-based Blackstone officially took the wraps off its $500 million plan to upgrade their 110-story building by wrapping its base with a new three-story retail and entertainment-focused addition.

Referred to at the time as a new thrill attraction designed to give visitors an exciting “new perspective”, the heart-stopping improvements slated for the tower’s top appearing in a report from Morningstar Credit Ratings and reported by Crain’s Chicago will certainly do just that. Expected to cost $20 million, the upgrades will double the Skydeck’s current capacity of 600 guests.

The upcoming feature would supplement the tower’s current “Ledge” attraction which allows visitors to venture beyond the observatory’s windows by stepping inside a set of transparent glass boxes. The upcoming renovation work will also streamline how tourists access the 103rd floor by adding a new below-ground entrance and welcome center.

Currently drawing 1.7 million paying customers a year, the Willis Skydeck hopes the upgrades will help edge out the competing John Hancock Center which features a “Tilt” attraction that tips an articulated portion of its observatory outwards at an angle towards the ground.

Last year, the observatory at Los Angeles’ US Bank Tower upped its thrill game by adding a 45-foot-long transparent “Skyslide” that drops its riders from the building’s 70th floor down to the 69th.