WTTW special traces Navy Pier’s 100 years of history

Navy Pier celebrates its 100 anniversary this year and its colorful history — from under-used shipping terminal, to military training center, to university, to rough-edged concert venue, to top tourist attraction — will be told in WTTW/11’s special Thursday, Oct. 27 at 8 p.m.

“Navy Pier is one place everyone in Chicago has visited, but experienced in different ways,” comments producer Eddie Griffin, who co-wrote the 60-minute script with show host Geoffrey Baer.

“We wanted to capture a portrait of the Pier that traces the Pier’s fascinating up-and-down history but also transports you there today.”

Baer and the station’s crew spent last May through August tracing a day in the Pier’s life. They shot all over the Pier and out on Lake Michigan in boats. “Navy Pier” covers a ride aboard the Seadog speed boat; children at play in the new interactive fountain in Polk Bros Park; stops in at WBEZ public radio and Shakespeare Theatre; attends the grand opening of the new Centennial Ferris Wheel and takes a ride on it; watches pyro technicians launch one of their twice-weekly fireworks displays on Lake Michigan, explores the Wave Wall and hangs out in the popular Beer Garden.

The producers used rare archival images and footage and interviews with historians. Notably, the program offers a look at Navy Pier’s dramatic new design by James Corner, the famous landscape architect of New York’s High Line and Staten Island’s Fresh Kills Parks. Dan Soles was EP; associate producer Erica Gunderson; DP Tim Boyd; lighting director Danny Rozkuszka. Paul Thornton edited and Linda Fox was the art director.

Also on Thursday, the station is expected to launch a Navy Pier website. It will feature exclusive video stories, a phone-and tablet-ready interactive tour with Baer as guide, a timeline of historical milestones, trivia, a quiz about the Pier and a place for site visitors to share Pier memories and photos and submit their creative ideas for the Pier.

The digital team consists of EP Anne Gleason, designer Jenny Macchione; developers Chris Ege, Kevin Crowley and Justin Henderson, and content producer Margie Newman.