Look up. Look way up — 553.33 metres up to be exact, the crown jewel of Toronto’s skyline: the CN Tower.
For a while there, it was the world’s tallest freestanding structure and tallest tower.
Although the official opening was on Oct. 1, 1976, the CN Tower opened to the general public a few months earlier, on June 26.
This Sunday it turns 40, celebrating more than a million and a half international visitors who have come to gaze in awe at the concrete and steel needle in the sky.
People have used the famous venue for anniversaries, birthday parties and marriage proposals.
It’s also proved to have an enduring appeal for shutterbugs. Toronto’s street photographers case out the city for different angles and perspectives of the tower, hoping to get the perfect shot.
It is the communications tower that has become Toronto’s greatest global symbol.
Sunday marks the 40th anniversary of the CN Tower opening its doors to the public.
Standing at 1,815 feet and five inches, the tower hosts 9,000 to 10,000 observation deck visitors and 1,000 restaurant patrons on a typical busy day.
“The CN Tower was the definitive engineering project of the 70s,” Robert Lansdale told the Sun, emphasizing the Canadian ingenuity behind the project.
“Myself and everybody else didn’t understand it, so when the tower started being built all you saw was a concrete slab and it was ugly,” he said.
However, he said once the hoarding covering the observation deck was removed and the helicopter airlifted parts of the antenna in place, that’s when public excitement started to grow.
Lansdale said the main goal of his project is to preserve as many of the stories as possible of the over 1,500 people who were involved in the building of the structure for future generations.
Approximately 600 employees work at the CN Tower during the busy summer season.
Sarfaraz Haq started working at the attraction as a restaurant cashier in 1976 shortly after immigrating to Canada. Now Haq is the tower’s senior director of finance.
“Pride in Toronto and Canada,” Haq said when asked what the CN Tower means to him. “It’s something about working here at the tower that gets into you. It becomes your family.”
Working on the CN Tower security team 19 years ago was only supposed to be a stepping stone to the next job, but Tom Mellon, now the tower’s operations director, grew to love the facility.
“You live, breathe and eat it. You’re always thinking about it,” Mellon said. “Most people tell you you’re supposed to shut off when you go home, but it’s not that place.”
But even after enhancements such as the glass floor and EdgeWalk, do residents and visitors think the attraction has become a bit dated after 40 years?
Tourism Toronto chief marketing officer Andrew Weir said based on exit survey information from air travellers, the tower has proven to be as popular as ever.
“The CN Tower is certainly the most visited attraction of all the city’s attractions,” Weir said. “We find that statistically of people who only do one attraction (they) are most likely to go to the CN Tower.”
Weir suggested the tower’s lighting system helps keep the facility relevant on a daily basis.
“Through the lighting program, they’re able to connect the tower visually to things going on in the world and locally, whether they are tragedies or celebrations.”
Weir said when it comes to marketing Toronto abroad, the attraction helps differentiate the city from others.
“When you market a destination, what’s important is you capture what’s unique about it … the unique look of it,” he said.
“(The tower) is the exclamation point on the skyline.””
CN Tower Milestones
February 1974: The tower’s concrete shaft becomes the tallest structure in Canada
August 1974: Construction begins on the sphere which houses the observation deck and revolving restaurant
March 1975: A large Sikorsky helicopter begins airlifting parts of the antenna (44 in total)
April 1975: Construction of the tower finishes
June 1976: The CN Tower opens to the public
1986: Tour of the Universe flight simulator ride launches
1994: The glass floor is unveiled and visitors can look 1,122 feet straight down
2007: Tower LED light system becomes operational
2011: EdgeWalk opens allowing visitors to walk outside around the sphere of the CN Tower
Source: CN Tower
Kas Roussy via CBC News | Nick Westoll via Toronto Sun | photos Cameron Bartlett, Kas Roussy, and Bora via CBC News
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