Reporting Bud Gillett
DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – It’s been closed nearly six years, but now the observation deck in the ball atop Reunion Tower is ready for the public. The iconic landmark reopens this Saturday, and CBS 11 News got a sneak peek on Thursday.
The tower has a history. It has stood more than 500 feet over the city since 1978, its image gracing thousands of location bumper shots on televised football games. But since 2007 the view from there has been off limits — until now.
“What we’ve really tried to do is make it more than a view,” explained Chris Kleinert, the chairman and CEO of Hunt Realty. The company owns both the Reunion Tower and the Hyatt Regency Dallas Hotel next door, which just completed at $55 million makeover.
Describing the changes, Kleinert observed that what was once bare concrete floor with a few telescopes now has a 21st century makeover, complete with a bank of interactive TV screens. “What we want to do is make it much more interactive, so when we come off the elevators immediately you’re drawn to the screen, the view just pulls you to the window,” he said.
The computer screens can more than help identify landmarks, they can give a history of them. Or if you wish, take a virtual tour through President John F. Kennedy’s last few hours. The observation deck, now renamed a GeO-Deck, reflects the geodesic design of its famous outdoor lighting system. “Every facet of the tower has some facet of that geodesic concept into it,” according to Kleinert.
Downtown is experiencing a renaissance with attractions like the Perot Museum and the Klyde Warren Park. The folks at Reunion Tower hope it, too, will become a destination. “You’re drawn to see, ‘Hey, what’s that, what’s that? Let me learn more about this,’” says Kleinert. “Then also for somebody that’s not from Dallas, you can look at this screen and say, ‘Hey, what are some of the hidden gems here? What are some of the things to do that otherwise I would never know or see?’”
The GeO-Deck is one of three floors open to the public. Above it, the Cloud Nine Cafe where refreshments can be purchased, and above that the Five-Sixty Restaurant by Wolfgang Puck, which reopened in 2009. “And ever since we have had guests coming and wanting to go down and experience the observation deck especially with the new technology we have down on that floor,” said catering manager Lauren Eck.
After 6pm daily, the Cloud Nine Café will convert to extra seating for the Five Sixty, which will provide food to both venues. The restaurant is expecting increased foot traffic, according to sous chef Ray Skradniznksi. “The new space kind of benefits everybody very much, especially the Hyatt. It brings a lot more people here. It’s going to be good for everybody.
Tower admission is $16 for adults, $14 for seniors 65 and over, and $8 for children between 4 and 12. Children age 3 and under are free.
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