Sears Tower Gets New Name

Chicago's iconic Sears Tower has a new name. The tallest building in the U.S. was renamed the Willis Tower. Locals say it will take some getting used to.

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In Chicago, the tower formerly known as Sears is now known as Willis Tower, that officially begins today. And it's already acquired a nickname: the Big Willy. NPR's David Schaper reports on the renaming of the tallest building in North America.

(Soundbite of crowd)

DAVID SCHAPER: Chicago Mayor Richard Daley joined Willis Group corporate officials in pulling a black covering off the giant Willis Towers sign in the lobby of this iconic 110-story skyscraper. Willis Group Holdings, a London based insurance company, bought the naming right as part of its lease in the giant office tower. Chicagoans haven't been too kind to other corporate renamings. They picketed outside the historic Marshall Fields Department Store on State Street when it became Macy's. And many White Sox fans still refuse to call the former Comiskey Park "U.S. Cellular Field," preferring simply The Cell. So, New Jersey born and bred Joe Plumeri, Willis Group's president and CEO, says he knows it might be hard for Chicagoans to call the Sears Tower they grew up with, the Willis tower.

Mr. JOSEPH PLUMERI (President and CEO, Willis Groups): You know, you can call it anything you want. And I said on TV yesterday, call it the Big Willy for all I care.

(Soundbite of crowd)

Mr. PLUMERI: No, in fact I wish you would.

SCHAPER: For his part, Mayor Daley doesn't mind changing the name of the Sears Tower for a British company.

Mayor RICHARD DALEY (Chicago, Illinois): Big Willy, Willis, yeah, Tower, yes. You know why, because they stepped up to the plate.

SCHAPER: Bringing new jobs downtown, says the mayor. But for Chicagoans outside of the Willis Tower, the new name is hard to swallow.

Mr. MIKE HUDGEN(ph): It's a - you know, it's always going to be the Sears Tower, you know...

SCHAPER: Mike Hudgen of suburban Des Plaines says he just won't call it Willis, while the name change kind of bothers Suzanne Dicostanza(ph) of Chicago.

Ms. SUZANNE DICOSTANZA: Yes it does, because Sears is really a Chicago institution, I feel like. And it's strange that it would be called anything else.

SCHAPER: Reginald Snow(ph) of Chicago feels the same.

Mr. REGINALD SNOW: I don't like it. I grew up on the Sears Towers, so...

SCHAPER: As for the nickname Big Willy, Snow says...

Mr. SNOW: I'll keep my tongue unto myself on that one.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SCHAPER: Probably a good call.

David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago.

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