A spooky tour of the Sky Tower in Auckland

This story is from thespinoff.co.nz team.

Behind The Sugar Club and the revolving restaurant lies a hidden world that the public cannot explore. We are going there.

“You’ll be fine,” says Bruce Stewart. “We’ll take a look outside that door.”

SkyCity’s chief facilities supervisor – a general title given to him, he says, so “they can stop me wherever they like” – stands near the top of the claustrophobic stairs inside Auckland’s Sky Tower, completely unfazed.

He actually took me into a bustling service elevator for fifty odd flights, then toured some unusual spaces in the building, showcasing service areas, consoles, and spray tubes, including amazing old computing stations and interior structural frameworks that look like Ghostbusters Globe grow on them.

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Bored with it, Stewart decided it was time to show me something special. Via the inner staircase of the Sky Tower, we ascend over The Sugar Club, the Orbit 360 revolving restaurant, the Sky Walk and public viewing platform, and into an area off-limits to the general public, visited only by those in the area. I know.

The ancient computing equipment at the top of the Sky Tower was discarded.

Chris Schulz / Spinoff

The ancient computing equipment at the top of the Sky Tower was discarded.

Stewart is one of those. Using an intercom next to the door, he calls security, warns them what we’re about to do, and then opens the door that leads to a place no one normally goes when buying a full entry lane to Auckland’s tallest building.

Yes, nearly 60 floors, on a cold, windy, humid day in the middle of the week, we’ll go outside.

A cool breeze hits me in the face as I try to get past Stewart and enjoy the uninterrupted view of Tamaki Makaurao available outside that door. It’s gorgeous, better than the top of Mount Eden on a sunny day, and definitely the best place to enjoy the wonder of Aotearoa’s largest city.

It’s also a great place to contemplate your yard. After glancing at the view, I realized something else.

At this very external level, there are no barriers, no protection barriers, and no fences. If you’re not careful when you walk out that door, there’s nothing to stop you from free-falling to the ground and face-planting in the asphalt below.

“You make one mistake out there, and it’s over,” warns Stewart. “You don’t bounce.”

That’s when I started sweating. Stewart, the guy who always seems to be in a hurry, tries to push me through the door and out onto the viewing deck to get past my phobia. “There is nothing unsafe,” he says. But my legs are frozen, and my whitened joints won’t give up the ladder rail. I can’t move.

Uninterrupted views at the top of Auckland's Sky Tower.

Chris Schulz / Spinoff

Uninterrupted views at the top of Auckland’s Sky Tower.

“Nah… nah,” she muttered. “I’m not excited… I’m not good with heights.” Stewart mumbled, “I can see that.” His disappointment is clear. Here, in front of an open door near the 60th floor of the Sky Tower, this journalist found his breaking point.

Stewart does this all the time. A mountain goat in his previous life, most likely, climbs into the Tower of Heaven most days of his work week, and sometimes on weekends. When Covid restrictions closed the Sky Tower attractions, he would occasionally come into town to continue his climb anyway.

He’s made his Sky Tower turn into beautiful art: just 21 minutes is all it takes to climb 50 individual levels, then back down. “It depends on how I feel,” he boasts.[but] I do not stop. If he has the time, sometimes he does it twice, like it’s nothing. He is, for the record, a 68-year-old bird.

Today, Stewart is supposed to show off some of the more unusual areas of the Sky Tower, tell me stories, and reminisce about the days when it was built. You may have heard that the Sky Tower turns 25 this week, and Stewart has been there from the start, working as a shift electrician in Sky City in the mid-1990s, then moving into maintenance across the entire complex.

Continue building the Sky Tower. “When you come to work in the car you’re looking at, you’ll see things happen. It was growing.” Despite being past retirement age, Stewart doesn’t want to leave. “It’s vibrant. is changing. “There are a lot of things you don’t expect to happen,” he says. “you are not afraid [going into] work.”

Bruce Stewart climbs the skyscraper.

Chris Schulz / Spinoff

Bruce Stewart climbs the skyscraper.

Nowadays, if something goes wrong across the complex, Stewart is the guy people ask to solve. The other day, he came back from a long weekend to find water pouring on the casino game machines first thing in the morning. “It was coming out of the sprinkler system,” he says. “Every man was at the workstations – you just have to deal with it.”

During our two-hour journey, he showed me elevator rooms, fire levels, power cables, toilet pipes, kitchens, trusses, and access roads, all out of the public eye. In Orbit 360, he showed me the dial that speeds up the restaurant’s rotation. Somehow, I managed to resist moving him when he wasn’t looking.

Lee also tells stories, because he’s collected a few over the years. One includes inviting you to try an early version of the Sky Walk, the activity in which daredevils are harnessed and walk around the Saturn-like Sky Tower rings. While he was there, he realized that everyone had a perfect view inside the toilets of The Sugar Club. “There was a crazy rush to get a door to stop people looking at it,” he laughs.

Now, he’s trying to force me out with him. But, in front of the door, it was opened with his foot, all I can say is a nervous laugh and a timid squeak. Stewart’s response? “I won’t get you out. I won’t make you do anything you don’t want to do.”

Finally, I force my feet to move, slowly placing one in front of the other. Once I’m outside, my mind clears, and I can focus on the scenic views. “Don’t you hear the hum of the city [up here]Stewart says. He’s right, he’s very peaceful, even happy.

Then spoil it. “It’s a long, bloody road down.” He seems to be intent on torturing me. And we haven’t even gotten to the worst part yet.

The latch that leads out and the needle of the sky tower.

Chris Schulz / Spinoff

The latch that leads out and the needle of the sky tower.

“I want to go higher,” shouts a small child. We got to the highest public viewing space, the level with those panes of glass on the floor providing a dim view of the stomach down to the pier below. This kid dances on them, then leans his entire body weight on the angled planks. This kid clearly doesn’t care about safety.

“I want to go to a higher level!” He screams again, reaching the point of fever. His mother takes him to the Sky Tower plot and points out our place: on the observation deck, the highest point the audience is allowed to go to. “There is no higher place,” his mother exhaled.

But there. Stewart gives me a thoughtful look and invites me to follow him. He opens another door to another, narrower staircase and leads me up. “I breathe like billy-o when I get here,” Stewart says of his daily climb.

stops. At this altitude, with a wind speed of at least 50 km/h, it is easy to feel the tower swaying in the wind. Again, my knuckles stuck to the rod. My feet are freezing on the ground. Above us is a trap door with a metal wheel attached to it, like something from Battlestar Galactica. Where does he go? Higher inside the Sky Tower Needle, then, if you keep going up, onto an external ladder. The top of the top.

Stewart takes this as a signal to start another story. In 1998, when the Sky Tower turned into one, it was decorated to light it in the form of a single candle. On the needle, they hit a huge canvas flag to promote the anniversary. But, he says, “It was a really stormy night.” One of the links has been undone. “This thing broke.”

At 10 p.m. that night, Stewart and another employee decided to venture as high as possible to climb the Sky Tower in Auckland in an attempt to re-secure it.

It worked—but Stewart never told his wife about their late-night adventure. “It was really windy,” he said, the touch apparently shaky for the first time in our interview. “I was [worried]but I was twenty-five years younger.”

Then Stewart looked at me, a twinkle in his eye, and his self-confidence returned. He wants to know if I want to join him in recreating those daring feats of all those years ago. Do I want to climb the sky tower needle? “It’s one of the harshest environments you have,” he says. “I can organize it.”

shook my head. I answered, “I’m fine.” I am ready to return to solid ground safely and securely.

#spooky #tour #Sky #Tower #Auckland

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