"It was like Jesus. Like walking water."
That's how one tourist described his first steps out on the Ledge; the new heart-stopping, breathtaking experience that is the new Sears Tower Skydeck. And most visitors seemed to agree: The first step is the hardest.
"It's like walking on ice," said Margaret Kemp, of Bishop, Calif., who said her heart was still pounding even after stepping away from the balcony. "That first step you take -- 'am I going down?"'
Thursday's opening of the new attraction had even Chicagoans, who have long taken the Sears Tower for granted, craning their necks as they waited in a long line on the ground to get into the building.
"The Skydeck has evolved to challenge our visitors curiosity," Randy Stancik, Skydeck general manager told Chicago Breaking News. "You only need to see the forehead prints on the windows to know that visitors are constantly trying to catch a glimpse below."
From 1,353 feet above the street -- thats 103 stories up -- The Ledge jets out 4.3 feet over Wacker Drive. Visitors are treated to unobstructed views of the city from the building's west side and a heart-stopping vista of the street and Chicago River below - for those brave enough to look straight down
The same glass and architectural metal contractor, MTH industries, that installed the Cloud Gate in Millennium Park, put in The Ledge’s 1,500 pound glass panels. The glass is three layers thick and each layer is a half-inch thick. Each box is designed to hold about five tons.
The balconies are just one of the big changes coming to the Sears Tower. The building's name will change to Willis Tower later this summer. Last week, officials announced a 5-year, $350 million green renovation complete with wind turbines, roof gardens and solar panels.