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Good Question: What’s On Top Of The IDS Center?

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(credit: CBS) Jason DeRusha
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It is the icon of the Minneapolis skyline, the tallest building in Minnesota. But what is on the top of the IDS Center?

“You can see a couple things,” said James Durda, the general manager of IDS Center and a vice president with Inland American Office Management.

From the roof on a clear day, you can see St. Paul, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport and the Minneapolis lakes.

But to get to the tallest spot on a Minnesota building, you have to take a service elevator to one floor higher than the high-priced attorneys’ offices on floor 51.

After arriving on 51A, we walk up two floors with mechanical equipment and open several locked doors to get to the roof.

“If you come back in January it’s a little cooler,” joked Durda.

The most striking features on the roof are the only things you can see from the ground: The two giant poles standing tall 910 feet from the sidewalk below.

“Two 110 foot poles that hold all the antennas,” said Durda.

The IDS has the ability to transmit and receive 300 different frequencies. Many radio and television stations use the poles on top of the IDS as either a primary or back-up transmitter.

Many different two-way radio systems have their operations on top of the tower.

“There are about 45 different companies with equipment up here, it ebbs and flows,” said Durda.

If the winds get over 65 miles per hour, an email is automatically sent out and a technician comes on top of the IDS to measure the 10 giant bolts holding it down, to make sure they’re still tight.

“You wouldn’t want a 110 foot pole flying through downtown Minneapolis,” said WCCO-TV Reporter Jason DeRusha.

“That would be a wicked javelin,” joked Durda.

Viewers sent us video versions of Good Questions.

“I’ve heard on top of the ids tower there’s a light that changes color with the weather – is that true?” asked a Tout user named “Gardner.”

Nope. There are two sets of red flashing lights, one giant white strobe light and another white strobe light on top of one of the 110-foot tall poles. They are mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration to keep planes away, according to Durda.

“On top of the building, I’m going to have to go with a giant cell phone tower?” asked another viewer.

“We’re too high,” answered Durda. “200 feet plus is the range for cell phone powers,” he said.

There is a giant window-washing rig that rides on rails around the building, the second one. The original didn’t work so well.

“That’s where safety really matters,” said Durda. They’ve never had an accident with window washing, he said.

WCCO-TV has microwave receivers on top of the building. We send our signal from our live trucks to the top of the tower. That signal goes into our control room, and then back out to our broadcast tower in Shoreview.

The top of the building also has a spot for firefighters to plug in fire hoses. Durda said they train on it every year. There also is a ventilation pipe for all the toilets (1000) in the building. Yes, it stinks.

Because of developments in technology and the growth of other skyscrapers in downtown, there aren’t as many pieces of equipment on the IDS Center as there once was.

“It’s not the revenue it used to be, its down substantially,” said Durda. 

And sometimes it takes a massive effort to get equipment on top of the building. Three years ago, they assembled a 90-foot long crane in order to pull eight new chillers to the roof.

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