Visitors to the observation deck at One World Trade Center will learn about the building's history while they're waiting in line downstairs and watch a video on the tower's 102nd floor before the actual panoramic view is revealed.
Packaged like a theme-park ride, the tour will showcase One World Trade as "the most significant destination in the world," said David Checketts, chairman and CEO of Legends Hospitality LLC, which has signed a 15-year lease to operate the observation deck.
Legends — a partnership of the Checketts Partners Investment Fund, the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys — operates concessions at sports stadiums and other venues around the country. Team officials including Hal Steinbrenner, managing general partner of the Yankees, and Jerry Jones Jr., executive vice president of the Cowboys, attended a news conference on the unfinished building's 100th floor announcing the company's $875 million lease agreement.
"We expect this to be the Yankee Stadium of observation decks," said Scott Rechler, vice chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the building.
The eagle's-nest view through the tower's sloping windows encompasses all of Manhattan and its surrounding waters plus Brooklyn and New Jersey beyond. It is so expansive that Rechler joked that Jones was trying to find Cowboys Stadium.
"Look west," he advised.
One World Trade Center, formerly called the Freedom Tower, is scheduled to be completed in early 2014, with the observation deck opening in 2015.
The 104-story skyscraper at the northwest corner of the World Trade Center site will be the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere when it is completed and has been the tallest in New York for a year. Its highest-profile tenant will be magazine publisher Conde Nast.
The tower overlooks the World Trade Center memorial, where twin reflecting pools evoke the towers lost on Sept. 11, 2001.
The observation deck tour will tell a more upbeat story.
Visitors will buy their tickets in the building's lobby, then take an escalator to the basement to hear a presentation on the construction of the building, featuring voices of some of the workers, as they wait in line for the elevators. The Port Authority said the "preshow" would provide "an immersive background on the creation of the building."
The elevators to the observation deck will travel more than 1,250 feet in about a minute, officials said. Once on the 102nd floor, visitors will watch a video about New York called See Forever before a curtain or scrim is raised, revealing the panoramic view. Tour ambassadors will be available to answer questions about the skyline, the Port Authority said.
There will be restaurants and snack bars on the 101st floor, a gift shop on the 100th floor and more videos on the elevator ride down.
The cost to take the hour-plus tour has not been determined, but officials said it would be comparable to similar attractions, with group discounts available. The 86th-floor observation deck at the Empire State Building costs $25.
The north tower of the original World Trade Center featured a well-regarded restaurant called Windows on the World. The restaurant's staff and breakfast guests were among those killed when terrorists destroyed the building.