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Willis Tower? Addams Tollway? Old names still stick after renaming
By Jamie Sotonoff | Daily Herald Staff

I-88 in Naperville is formally named The Ronald Reagan Memorial Tollway.


Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

A Rosemont Horizon by any other name? Its current name is the Allstate Arena.


Mark Black | Staff Photographer

Don't call it Palwaukee - it's now the Chicago Executive Airport.


Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

We can't stop calling it the Northwest Tollway.


George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago is simply Sox Park to many fans.


Rick West | Staff Photographer

Many people still call Westfield Hawthorn Shopping Center by its middle name - Hawthorn.


Vincent Pierri | Staff Photographer

This is a photo of Geddy Lee of Rush. It was taken from the front row of their show in Tinley Park 9-8-2007.


We can't stop calling it the Northwest Tollway.


George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

It's Ronald Reagan Memorial Tollway these days.


Marcelle Bright | Staff Photographer

The Sears Tower will be renamed Willis Tower.


Associated Press photo

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Published: 3/13/2009 12:02 AM | Updated: 3/13/2009 10:55 AM

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Old habits die hard.

It's going to be a long time - maybe forever - before people start calling the Sears Tower by its new name, Willis Tower (or, as fans of the TV show Diff'rent Strokes jokingly call it, "The watchoo talkin' 'bout Willis Tower").

Just take a look at the dozens of suburban places popularly known by names that don't technically exist anymore - the Rosemont Horizon, Palwaukee Airport or the East-West tollway. And there's still an active, angry group protesting the name change from Marshall Field's to Macy's.

London-based Willis Group Holdings is getting a lot of flack for daring to rename a Chicago icon. The company paid more than $2 million for 140,000 square feet of office space in America's tallest building, and no extra money was paid for the naming rights. The company will consolidate its five Chicago area offices, including one in Lombard and one in Oak Brook, and move 500 employees into the space.

Corporate branding experts aren't sure why Willis - a global retail insurance broker that doesn't deal directly with consumers - opted to change the building's name.

"It's ego," surmised Bob Killian, CEO of Killian Advertising, a Chicago firm that specializes in corporate branding.

Willis spokesman Will Thoretz says the company is sympathetic to the emotional connection to the Sears name but the company sees this as an opportunity to raise its profile in an important business market. "This is a new day, and over time, Chicagoans may come to embrace the Willis name," Thoretz said.

Companies spend millions of dollars on naming rights for certain buildings in hopes that repeated name use will help its marketing efforts. But the plan can backfire, especially when landmarks are involved, Killian said.

"This will be a blip compared to when Wrigley Field gets renamed," he added.

What's in a name?

Dozens of places, especially malls, tollways and sports arenas, have attempted to make name changes that never caught on with the public.

The actual name What many still call it
Chicago Executive Airport Palwaukee Airport
Jane Addams Tollway Northwest Tollway or just 90
Ronald Reagan Tollway East-West Tollway, I-88 or I-5
U.S. Cellular Field Comiskey Park or Sox park
Allstate Arena The Rosemont Horizon
Macy's Marshall Field's
First Midwest Bank Amphitheater World Music Theater
Westfield Hawthorn Shopping Center Hawthorn Mall
Christian Liberty Academy The old Arlington High School
University of Illinois at Springfield Sangamon State University
United Center Chicago Stadium
John G. Woods Municipal Campus Arlington Heights village hall
Veterans Memorial Tollway I-355