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The Tower of the Americas is a 750-foot observation tower/restaurant on the southeastern fringe of Downtown San Antonio, Texas, USA. The tower was designed by San Antonio architect O'Neil Ford and was built as the theme structure of the 1968 World's Fair, HemisFair '68.
The Tower was the tallest observation tower in the United States from 1968 until 1996, when the Las Vegas Stratosphere Tower was completed. It is also the one of the two tallest skyscrapers in Texas excluding Dallas and Houston. The other is the 683-foot residential building, The Austonian.
The Tower is located in the middle of HemisFair Park and has an observation deck that is accessible by elevator for a fee. In addition, there is also a lounge and revolving restaurant at the top of the tower that provides panoramic views of the city.
The fastest recorded time up the tower's 952 steps is 5 minutes 18 seconds on January 29, 1981.
Construction of the tower began on August 9, 1966 and was completed in approximately 18 months, just in time for the opening ceremonies for the fair held on April 6, 1968. The tophouse of the building was constructed at ground level and hoisted to the top of the poured concrete shaft. As the tophouse was being hoisted into place, on October 30, 1967 some of the cables used to hoist it snapped, leaving it resting on and precariously tilted on the Tower’s shaft. Eventually, oil field pipes were used in lieu of cables to complete the job.
In 2004, Landry's Restaurants, Inc. won the bid for a 15-year lease to manage and operate the property for the City of San Antonio. Landry's undertook an extensive $8 million renovation of the existing restaurant and lounge and observation deck and added a 4-D film "ride" called "Skies Over Texas," that gives the history of Texas in a film format. Additionally, Landry's spent another $4 million to add approximately 200% more space for ground level attractions such as a gift shop and cafe. Renovations were completed and the tower re-opened with the new Eyes Over Texas Restaurant, Bar 601 and the Flags Over Texas observation deck on June 21, 2006. The restaurant rotates slowly as you eat, and observation deck entry is included in the cost of a tower ticket.
Prior to Landry's, Frontier Enterprises (owner of San Antonio-based Jim's Restaurants) operated the Tower of the Americas' restaurant for more than three decades.
Since 1970 the roof has hosted a 30 meter tall tapered steel mast, used as support for three FM antennas; 101.9 KQXT (then known as KCOR-FM), 102.7 KJXK (then KTFM), and 104.5 KZEP (then KITE-FM). In 2007, the three individual antennas were replaced by a 16-Bay master antenna that radiates all three FM signals including the HD signal for KQXT. Clear Channel Radio and Electronics Research Inc. headed up the project along with their contractors and involved the City of San Antonio and Landry's Restaurants. The new antenna system improved coverage for all three radio stations. An option existed for several years to add facilities for a move in signal on 97.7 (requiring rearrangement of ten other stations) to share the site. This was organized by Bret Huggins and David Stewart of Rawhide Radio, LLC (partly owned by Hispanic Broadcasting now Univision radio).
Transmitters are located between the public areas of the observation deck and the revolving restaurant in equipment bays along with air conditioners and plumbing.
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