No Wait for Waitt

June 1, 2001

When the green light was given for the Omaha stations owned by Waitt Radio to relocate to a new facility, there was an abundance of ideas and work, but not time. Maintaining the current facilities, and planning and building the new facilities, is a problem that many facilities face. From the beginning, it was decided that the new facilities would be functional and still be a showcase.

Omaha is Arbitron-ranked 75th in market size. While not a large market, this installation shows that large market ideas and methods can be carried out in smaller markets.

There are six stations in the facility. KQKQ-FM Sweet 98, KZFX-FM The Fox, KCTY-FM The City, KKAR-AM News/Talk, KAZP-AM ESPN Radio and KOIL-AM Radio Disney. There are a total of 11 studios, including six air studios, four production studios and one general-purpose studio. Extra space was allowed, including a room for a future studio. The studios are built around a central news-gathering and continuity/production area.

Before the move, the studios occupied several locations around Omaha. This project consolidated the operations. What is truly remarkable about this installation is that the construction project was completed in only three months. This was possible through careful planning and by efficient use of outside services, like those of system integrator RDA Systems.

Project preparation

The new studio building was formerly occupied by a cable company, which helped because electrical service was already in place. Satellite dish clearances — both physical and zoning — were already okay. As a bonus, a generator and Sola transformer (power balancing) were already installed in the building.

An added benefit of the facility location is that it is on the main road through downtown Omaha. This provides easy visitor access and provides a high-visibility location. The studios occupy a three-story building. The rack room and generator are on the first floor. Operations and news offices, and the studios are on the second floor. Administration and sales offices are on the third floor.

To speed the construction time, the project was prewired by RDA Systems in St. Louis. The RDA Systems prewiring services, called Pre-Completion, allowed the bulk of the wiring and furniture preparation to be done before it was delivered to the studio site. Construction could begin in Omaha while cables were prepared and terminated in St. Louis. This process has the added benefit that building contractors and broadcast engineers are not in each other's way as the work progresses. It took seven weeks to prewire the racks in St. Louis.

Once the facility walls were completed, the equipment, furniture and prewired systems were delivered, and the process of putting all the pieces together began. Some of the equipment in the facility was purchased new for the move. Some equipment was brought from the former studio locations and re-installed. The installation took five weeks.

In the rack room

The master control room consists of 10 racks, with a 16-foot long main distribution wall. A six-server, 16-workstation AudioVault automation system is housed in master control. Master control is also equipped with an SAS 64000 routing switcher, most of the air chain equipment, telephone systems, 13 distribution amps, and eight satellite receivers. A separate room, located near the base of the on-site tower, houses two racks with STL transmitters and RPU receivers. This was done to reduce the length of the coaxial feed because audio wire is cheaper than coaxial cable and is easier to route. Also, audio signals do not suffer the same losses over distance as RF signals.

All AudioVault, SAS router, distribution amp and satellite wiring was brought out to the main distribution wall and punched to Krone 6639 termination blocks. The master control room layout did not afford as much space on the main distribution wall as RDA and the stations' engineers wanted, but the Krone have twice the wiring density of a standard 66 block, while occupying the same footprint. The Krone blocks also have an added feature of a built-in patching capability. A special jumper can be inserted to either bridge or break the connection.

Master control has 10 equipment racks. The first five contain station broadcast equipment, with each rack being dedicated to a particular station. KAZP and KOIL share a rack. These racks also contain common equipment such as the SAS router, satellites and DAs. The last five racks house all of the AudioVault equipment.

These racks each have a 20-amp service. The AudioVault servers also have redundant power supplies that are fed from their own UPS. This extra precaution makes sense, since the on-air playback system is a crucial component of the on-air operations.

Each on-air studio has a 6×1 switcher. The outputs feed the audio processing and STL link for Each station. The switcher inputs are the respective studio console program output, studio console audition output, and the three outputs from the AudioVault. One station carries the Disney format, and it has the three AudioVault outputs summed into one switcher input, since a console is not needed during most of the automated programming schedule.

The 6×1 switcher connections are extended to punch blocks on the distribution wall. For additional flexibility, the Krone blocks include a patching function, so anything can be routed into a station's airchain.

In addition to the spare inputs on the SAS router, a tieline feed is routed back to each control room (as a console input) from the rack room, so any source can also be patched directly into a console as needed. As installed, the SAS router has a capacity of 128 mono inputs and 128 mono outputs. Additional capacity is available.

The stations' STLs are RF links with equalized phone lines for backup.

The studios

In all but two small production rooms, new Audioarts R-60 consoles were installed. Other standard studio equipment included CD and mindisc players, cassettes, Cybex KVM extenders for the AudioVault, Symetrix 528 mic processors, and RDA Systems Custom Interconnect Panels.

Each studio has an interconnect panel for additional I/O connections. There is also one in the rack room. These panels are ideal for occasional connections or last-minute hookups. Each panel has several input and output connectors and can connect to the console or the routing switcher.

The furniture was built by Mager Systems. All the studios have the same general layout, but each room has certain custom elements influenced by station needs and room configuration. One unique feature on the console is the recessed switches for the guest mic positions. The water-resistant switches are mounted into beveled openings, so they are out of the way from anything placed on the counter surface.

Thanks to the following people for the assistance in preparing this article: Darwin Stinton, chief engineer, Waitt Omaha; Mike Hendrickson, director of engineering, Waitt; John Nielsen, assistant chief engineer; Kerry Petersen, AudioVault engineer; Joe Raftery, Project manager, RDA Systems.


Owner: Waitt Radio

Architect: HGM Associates

System Integrator: RDA Systems

General Contractor: Divercon

Equipment list

360 Systems Shortcut, Tascam 122MKII cassette, Tascam MD-301 minidisc, Denon DN720R cassette

Audioarts R-60 (8), Fidelipac Dynamax (1), Autogram Pacemaker (1) consoles

Audiometrics, Audioarts SDA-8600 distribution amps

Benchmark HPA-1 headphone amps

Broadcast Electronics AudioVault playback systems

Broadcast Tools 6×1 switcher

Cooledit Pro DAW

Denon DN951-FA CD players

Electro-Voice RE-20, Electro-Voice ND-27, Sennheiser MD421 microphones

Eventide BD980 profanity delay

Gentner TS-612 telephone system and Gentner DH-20 hybrids

JBL 4208A, Yamaha NS-10M speaker monitors

Krone 6639 punch blocks

Lowell equipment racks

Mager Systems furniture

Marti STL-10, Marti CR-10, Moseley PCL606, Moseley PCL-6000, Intraplex T-1, QEI Catlink STL/PRU systems

Musicam USA CDQ Prima, Telos Zephyr codecs, JK Audio Remote Mix

Eventide H3000, Yamaha SPX 900 effects processors

Sierra Automated Systems 64000 routing switcher

Symetrix 528 mic processors

Burk ARC-16, Moseley MRC-1620 and Potomac Instruments transmitter remote controls

GS Metals Flextray Cable Tray

Gepco 552608GFC AES 8-pair cable, Gepco 5526EZ single-pair AES cable, Gepco 5596EZ single-pair AES cable, Gepco D5596EZ dual-pair zip AES cable

Berk-Tec 25-pair CAT5 cable

Clark Wire & Cable control cable

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