CHICAGO - For Chicagoans it may be the architectural equivalent of having to watch Michael Jordan finish his career in a Washington Wizards uniform: The Sears Tower is turning into something called the Willis Tower.
That's right, the tallest building in the United States is getting a new name later this year, building management said Thursday.
It's all part of a deal with London-based Willis Group Holdings. Along with moving 500 employees into 140,000 square feet on multiple floors of the 110-story building this summer, the Willis Group gets the naming rights as part of its lease agreement with the real estate investment group that owns Sears Tower.
The name change isn't the first in recent years for Chicago. In 2006, the city's State Street shopping district saw Marshall Field's department store become Macy's and in 2003 the White Sox stopped playing baseball at U.S. Cellular Field instead of Comiskey Park.
"We certainly appreciate and understand the sentimental attraction to the Sears Tower name, and it's certainly a Chicago icon," said Will Thoretz, a spokesman in New York for Willis Holdings Group. "Our move into Chicago is a good thing for the city. We're bringing hundreds of jobs into the city."
The company is not paying extra for naming rights to the tower, Thoretz said.
"We asked for the naming rights," Thoretz said. "There was no additional cost to us."
The insurance broker will occupy more than 140,000 square feet at $14.50 a square foot. Willis is moving five local offices into the building. The move is expected to be completed by late summer.
Sears Tower first opened in 1973 with the building's original occupant, Sears Roebuck and Co. Sears moved its headquarters to the Chicago suburb of Hoffman Estates in 1992...