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Sydney Tower is Sydney's tallest structure and the second tallest observation tower in the Southern Hemisphere. Auckland's Sky Tower (Auckland) is taller but Sydney Tower's main observation deck is almost 50 m (164 ft) higher than the observation deck on Auckland's Sky Tower. The name Sydney Tower has become common in daily usage, however the tower has been known as the Sydney Tower Eye, AMP Tower, Westfield Centrepoint Tower, Centrepoint Tower or just Centrepoint. The Sydney Tower is a member of the World Federation of Great Towers.
The tower stands 309 m (1,014 ft) above the Sydney central business district (CBD), located on Market Street, between Pitt and Castlereagh Streets. It is accessible from the Pitt Street Mall, Market Street or Castlereagh Street and sits above the Westfield Sydney (formerly Centrepoint) shopping centre. The tower is open to the public, and is one of the most prominent tourist attractions in the city, being visible from a number of vantage points throughout town and from adjoining suburbs.
While the shopping centre at the base of the tower is run by the Westfield Group, the tower itself is occupied by Trippas White Group, which owns and operates Sydney Tower Dining, and Merlin Entertainments, which owns and operates the Sydney Tower Eye and Oztrek.
Designed by Australian architect Donald Crone the first plans for Sydney Tower were unveiled in March 1968. Construction of the office building commenced in 1970, and tower construction began in 1975. Prior to construction of the tower, the height limit in Sydney had been set at 279 m (915 ft), to allow for safe overflights by flying boats.
Public access to the tower began in August 1981. The total cost of construction was A$36 million. In 1998, the addition of a lightning rod to the top of spire extended the tower's overall height to 309 m (1,014 ft), which is 327 m (1,073 ft) above sea level.
While AMP managed the Centrepoint shopping centre, the tower was officially referred to as "AMP Tower". After the Westfield Group took over ownership of Centrepoint in December 2001, the name was changed to Sydney Tower.
In 2009, the base building was closed and stripped for a major refurbishment. This involved the connection of the shopping centre to other arcades and a complete upgrade of all the sites. The shopping centre was progressively reopened from 2010 and was renamed Westfield Sydney. On 25–26 June 2011 the "AMP" banner was removed from the tower and replaced by a large illuminated "Westfield" logo. This was achieved by helicopter after two previous attempts on 22 May and 12 June were aborted due to bad weather.
In 2011, Merlin Entertainments acquired the rights to operate the observation deck tower and its name was changed to the Sydney Tower Eye.
Four sections of the tower are open to public, three being occupied by Sydney Tower Dining. 360 Bar and Dining, which offers revolving views of the Sydney skyline, is located on level one of the Sydney Tower. Sydney Tower Buffet, a contemporary self-select restaurant, is located on the tower's second level. Sky Venue, located on level three, is the highest event space in the Southern Hemisphere, and can cater for cocktail functions for 200 people and 170 sit-down guests.
The observation deck, currently called the Sydney Tower Eye, is located on level four of Sydney Tower. To access this level, visitors can buy a pass from the operating company or at the gate. The pass allows access to other Sydney attractions including Wild Life Sydney and the Sydney Aquarium. The Sydney Tower Eye is located 250 m (820 ft) above ground level. It has a fully enclosed viewing platform featuring 360-degree views of the city and surrounding areas. This floor also houses a small gift shop, multilingual touchscreens and a readout that displays data about the wind speed, direction, sway amplitude, and other statistics of the tower. On 23 September 2011, a 4D cinema was opened on the fourth floor of the arcade, playing a film with footage from various locations in Sydney. The theatre is the first of its kind in Australia; in-theatre effects include wind, bubbles, and fire.
Skywalk is an open-air glass-floored platform encircling the Sydney Tower Eye at a height of 268 m (879 ft) above ground level. The viewing platform extends over the edge of the main structure of the deck. It was opened on 18 October 2005, cost A$3.75 million to construct, took four years to design and two months to build. This platform is only accessible as part of planned and booked tours.
The golden turret near the top of the tower has a maximum capacity of 960 people. Travel to the observation deck is by three high speed double-deck lifts, each with a capacity of 8 to 10 people. The lifts travel at full, half or quarter speed, depending on wind conditions. At full speed the lifts reach the deck in 45 seconds.
Leading up to the Sydney 2000 Olympics, the tower was decorated with sculptures by Australian Artist Dominique Sutton (an athlete rising from starting blocks, a gymnast performing a handstand, and a wheelchair basketball player passing the ball) which were positioned above the main body of the tower and in some cases overhung the edges. These sculptures were removed in 2003 and relocated to Sydney Olympic Park at Homebush. The figures were placed atop the tower using an S-64 Aircrane heavy lift helicopter known as "Elvis".
On several occasions, the tower has been used to launch fireworks or it has been illuminated with coloured lights as part of various celebrations in Sydney, such as New Year's Eve or during the Olympics in 2000.
Each year the Sydney Tower Run-up comprises the challenge of running up 1,504 stairs from Pitt Street Mall to the Observation Deck. The event is to raise money for the Cancer Council, and the two winners become eligible to compete in the Empire State Building Run-up. However, the event was cancelled in both 2011 and 2012.