How tall is Reunion Tower?

A Tower that was almost a donut.

The first sketches of what was to become Reunion Tower actually just depicted a revolving restaurant atop the Hyatt Regency Dallas at Reunion. The developers hated it. “You would have this graceful, wonderful building (the hotel) and you’d be putting a doughnut on top of it,” recalls John Scovell, who alongside Ray Hunt shepherded the project into existence. “We thought, ‘Why not put it on top of a separate structure?’”

A smashing grand opening.

As the tower prepared to open on April 15, 1978, local police officials were asked if the lighted ball would distract motorists. “Probably not,” was the reply. But within an hour and a half of the opening, traffic on highways leading to downtown came to a halt. Police and fire switchboards were overloaded for 15 minutes. Eventually, a police cruiser with a public-address system was dispatched to Stemmons Freeway to admonish drivers to keep moving.

Reunion Tower is now visited by hundreds of thousands of people each year. Millions more feel as if they know the tower from its decades of appearances on the opening credits for the TV series Dallas. The TV series and countless shots during nationally televised sporting events in the city have made the tower an anchor of the ever-changing Dallas skyline.

But like Dallas itself, there’s always more than meets the eye. Learn some things you might not have known about one of Dallas’ biggest stars.

Fun facts about the tower:

1. Though one of the best-known buildings in the skyline, Reunion Tower is only the 15th tallest building in downtown Dallas. An elevator ride lasts 68 seconds, and there are 837 steps in a stairwell to the top.

2. The 259 lights around the sphere were originally golden, but were changed to multicolored LED fixtures in 2011. The new multicolored lightshow was unveiled for New Year’s 2012.

3. Some of the designs that have appeared on the tower since the new light installation include a jack-o-lantern for Halloween and the Texas Rangers logo.

4. When the tower opened in 1978, there was a radio station on the observation level: KOAX-FM broadcast “from 500 hundred feet above the city.” The station moved out a number of years ago and is now known as KRLD-FM 105.3, The Fan.

5. In the first season of Dallas, before anyone knew the hit it would become — and how iconic Reunion Tower would become — the producers tried to pass off the Hyatt Regency and Reunion Tower as a resort in Las Vegas.

6. Less than a year after the tower’s opening, a guest at its revolving restaurant proposed to his girlfriend by hiring a single-engine plane to circle the tower with a banner that asked, “Patty will you marry me?”


Along with the Dallas Cowboys and the TV show that bears its name, Dallas is instantly recognizable for a number of things — and Reunion Tower is, quite literally, at the top of any list of Dallas icons. Perhaps it’s only fitting that the year of the tower’s completion — 1978 — also brought the premiere of the CBS Television series, Dallas. On that very first show, the aerial intro of the program seemed to start atop Reunion Tower. Though not even a year old, Reunion Tower was an instant worldwide celebrity.

How tall is Reunion Tower?

Wolfgang Puck’s Five Sixty restaurant provides a clue. It was named for the total height of the tower — 560 feet. The observation deck level is at 470 feet.

How many lights are there?

There are 259 custom LED light fixtures at the intersections of the aluminum struts that form the dome. The nightly light show is computer-generated. The globe is sometimes lit for special occasions, such as Fourth of July, St. Patrick’s Day or Texas Independence Day.

How did it get its distinctive shape?

When Hyatt Regency Dallas at Reunion was being designed, the Hyatt Hotels Corporation was launching revolving restaurants atop many of their new buildings. The developers and architects believed that the concept limited the architectural design of the building and decided to look at options, which led to the idea of a separate tower structure to house the revolving restaurant.

Why “Reunion” Tower?

The tower was part of a 1970s downtown renewal project built east of an area that had once been called La Reunion. La Reunion was a utopian settlement of French, Belgian and Swiss immigrants founded in the 1850s and later incorporated into Dallas. The 1970s renewal project named after the town, resulted in the construction of Reunion Tower, the Hyatt Regency Dallas at Reunion hotel, Reunion Arena, and the renovation of the 1916 vintage Union Station.

Does the whole sphere rotate?

Actually, just the floors of Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck and the level immediately below it – used for private events – rotate, generally making about one revolution per hour, giving guests a chance to see the entire 360-degree view in one sitting. The speed is adjustable, though — within reason.

Can I visit Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck after I visit the observation deck?

Absolutely! It's perfectly fine before or after, and absolutely delicious. The lounge features hand-crafted cocktails and appetizers, or guests can enjoy Wolfgang's fine dining experience with modern Asian-influenced cuisine. Check with the restaurant or Open Table for availability or reservations.

How far can you see from Reunion Tower?

On a clear day, you can see Fort Worth, 32 miles to the west. And with the GeO-Deck’s new Dallas Landmarks feature, you can get a really close up look at spots all over Dallas.

Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?

Besides the opening film credits to Dallas and countless shots during and before Dallas Cowboys games and other nationally televised sporting events, the tower has also appeared in the 1987 film, Robocop, 2011’s Tree of Life and is even “destroyed” in the 1997 made-for-TV movie Asteroid. Nightly, Reunion Tower is a prominent feature on the openings to the Dallas-Fort Worth local news shows and often a backdrop for the weather forecast.

Can I see Dealey Plaza from the observation deck?

Yes. The entire Dealey Plaza area and the Texas School Book Depository building are just to the north. The telescopes and HD cameras bring it even closer—right down to the individual blades of grassy knoll grass and the ‘x’ in Elm Street that marks the position of the motorcade when the shots were fired.

Why the name GeO-Deck?

The original design for Reunion Tower borrowed heavily from the futuristic ideas of famed architect Buckminster Fuller. Specifically, the top of the tower is a geodesic sphere, which is a term made famous in the mid-twentieth century by Mr. Fuller and means a shell structure based on a network of circles on the surface of a sphere. The name "GeO-Deck" is a combination of “Geodesic” and “Observation Deck."

We took similar inspiration from Mr. Fuller when naming Cloud Nine Café, the level above the GeO-Deck. "Cloud Nine" is the name 'Bucky' Fuller gave to his futuristic skyborne habitats created from giant geodesic spheres, which might be made to levitate by slightly heating the air inside above the ambient temperature. The more you know!

Is the observation deck closed in inclement weather?

The observation deck is open year-round, rain or shine. During severe weather, the deck may be closed temporarily for safety reasons.

How many people does it take to change a light bulb?

This is one case where more people to change a light bulb is better. Specialized crews with safety ropes climb outside the sphere to do the job. Fortunately, since the installation of long-life, higher efficiency LED bulbs in 2011, that should be a rare occurrence.

Dallas Skyline

Downtown Dallas

Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge

Omni Hotel ()

Looking south with railroad tracks under Dallas Convention Center

Dallas' old courthouse

Where JFK was shot

Perot Museum of Nature and Science

I35W going north

Lunch at Cloud 9 Cafe

Deaf chef

Deaf lady from Spain (right)

That's all, Folks!

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