Details on the new WTC deck...
Port Authority, With Eye on Income, Will Pick Firm for Trade Center Observatory
By CHARLES V. BAGLI
March 19, 2013
New York’s newest and tallest observation deck will offer an interactive immersion in all things New York as it shuttles visitors 102 floors into the sky and provides panoramic views of the city and beyond, from the harbor to Westchester County, Long Island, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
A projected 3.5 million visitors a year to the three-level observatory at 1 World Trade Center will be able see the history of New York City on video screens, punch up the number of available seats for a Broadway show or a Yankees game, and glimpse Rockefeller Center, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, West Point and MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. When the observatory opens more than 1,230 feet above Vesey Street in 2015, it will take its place among the highest decks in the nation, passing the one at the Empire State Building by a few feet but falling roughly 10 stories short of Chicago’s Willis Tower Skydeck.
At its board meeting on Wednesday, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is expected to approve a 15-year deal with Legends Hospitality Management to operate the observation deck that, officials say, could generate as much as $875 million in revenue for the authority over the life of the contract.
The contract is yet another indication that the 1,776-foot tower is nearing completion, a symbol of what officials say is the resilience of New York after the 2001 attack on the trade center. Port Authority officials view the deal as vindication for erecting one of the most expensive office towers built in the United States, at more than $3 billion.
Legends, the company that runs marketing, merchandising and luxury boxes for the earthbound stadiums of the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys, will be in charge of New York’s highest perch. Although it has no experience running observation decks, Legends has guaranteed the Port Authority an annual rent and a percentage of revenues. It has also brought in Phil Hettema of the Hettema Group, who developed the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and other theme park attractions for Universal, to design the three-story attraction, which will cost about $62 million.
Legends, led by David W. Checketts, the former president of Madison Square Garden, won a fierce competition to run the observatory, outbidding seven rivals, including Montparnasse 56 USA, an affiliate of a French firm that runs observatories in Paris and Berlin and at the John Hancock Tower in Chicago.
Observatories, once an afterthought for every tall tower, have become a lucrative business. Indeed, the Empire State Building observation decks drew over four million visitors last year and generated net income of $60.6 million in 2011.
If all goes according to plan, Port Authority officials expect the new observation deck in Lower Manhattan to account for a hefty 40 percent of the revenue from 1 World Trade Center.
But there is also lots of tower-top competition for visitors to New York City and the payments to the Port Authority will depend on a steady stream of visitors. The Related Companies announced last year that it had designed a multilevel observatory with an outdoor terrace for its planned 1,300-foot skyscraper at Hudson Yards on the West Side. It is unclear, however, when that tower will be built.
Top of the Rock, the observation deck at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Midtown, reopened in 2005 and now draws about 2.5 million patrons. The better known Empire State Building, which has observatories on the 86th and 102nd floors, operates at capacity during peak holiday periods.
It is unlikely, experts say, that tourists will visit more than one observatory. Downtown, the Statue of Liberty, the September 11 Memorial and Museum and Wall Street will vie with 1 World Trade Center for their attention.
At 1 World Trade Center, visitors will enter one of five dedicated elevators that rise to the 102nd floor, where there will be an “experiential” theater presentation, which opens up to reveal the views, and an event space for private parties. There will be a restaurant and gift shop on the 101st floor and another observation deck on the 100th floor.
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